Archive for October, 2011

Rather A Nice Rejection

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Fascinating though the inner workings of my washing machine obviously are; I think it’s time to write about something slightly more cerebral. Even if it’s not more cheerful. Late yesterday the news came in of my third publisher rejection and, as promised, I’m going to write about it because if it were anyone else I would be absolutely avid with interest. This was the third response out of five; I’m getting quite used to them now. The day that someone accepts my manuscript I think I may fall over.

It was the nicest rejection so far. The email I had from my agent actually said it was ‘rather a nice rejection – but a rejection all the same’. The email was from a fiction editor at a major publisher, and when I read what she had to say I agreed – it was nice. She said that she was “….really impressed with the author’s writing style and her ability to communicate with the reader in an accessible way…” and that “…I do rate Sarah’s writing and if she chooses to write anything else in the future, I hope you would consider sending it to me.” How nice! Obviously mixed in with those lovely bits were the paragraphs where she explained in detail exactly why she was rejecting it, which were not so great to read, but I did think that there were some fair comments in those as well. I wasn’t shocked this time, because it was the third rejection, and perhaps surprisingly, I didn’t have any negative feelings at all. My mind was wholly entranced with the compliments, rather than the actual rejection. That may sound strange, but the more time passes from the point of submission, the less I care about the manuscript. It becomes more and more every day something that is a past project, and whilst I shall mind if it doesn’t ever get published, it’s very far from my main focus. It’s out of my hands, there is nothing that I can do and I am looking firmly forwards to future opportunities. To which end, the fact that a fiction editor at a major publisher rates my writing and would be keen to read more is exceptionally good news.

The only bit that I struggle with, and have for a while, is having the confidence that I am writing the right thing. But as I said on here a while ago, I choose to believe that I’m writing the right thing when I feel that the story needs to be told, regardless of whether anyone else ever wants to read it or not. If you care passionately about your idea, then as a writer you have very little choice but to write about it. That instant when you’re thinking about a possible plot or concept, and your heart rate speeds up and your breathing becomes faster and heavier and the idea wells up and explodes in your mind into a thousand, tiny strands, so many that you can’t possibly use them all – that is a truly magical moment. The last time it happened to me was quite late at night and I’d been wrestling with a particular idea for days and then finally I saw a way that I could make it happen and I literally felt a physical sensation rush down my arms. I was instantly wide awake and focussed and all I wanted to do was start writing. Of course I had no real characters at that stage so it was completely impractical, but the strength of feeling I had showed me that it was something that needs to be written. And this is why I can take the rejections in my stride; even if I do end up being able to wallpaper a room with the letters.

A few people have sympathised and said how awful it must be to have my work rejected, but I can honestly say that I have never found it hard to hear criticism of my manuscript, for the simple reason that no-one has ever (to date, and I’m sure it will come) actually criticised my writing. I think if the editor had said that my writing wasn’t good enough, or it was boring or didn’t engage her then that may be a little hard to take. But the fact that she didn’t like my idea is all right with me. As I have pointed out again and again – whether or not a person likes a manuscript is a necessarily subjective thing. And just because one person doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean that someone else won’t, which is something agents say a lot because it’s true. The market conditions at the moment are apparently very, very tricky and nothing is selling. I hear this from various sources time and time again. I think it will be very difficult for a new author to get a manuscript accepted by a publisher at this precise moment in time, and if I’m brutally honest I don’t think Daisychain will be accepted. This time around. I’m not sure what will happen with it if I get five rejections, I certainly wouldn’t write it off completely, nor would I insist on submitting to every UK publisher under the sun. I think I would probably sit back, continue writing the new manuscript and just bide my time, wait and see if the market conditions improve, wait and see if the new manuscript meets with approval (both agent and publisher) and then perhaps there will come a time when re-submission for Daisychain becomes an option. Who knows? But I am jumping the gun a bit here, there are still two more responses to wait for.

This is the last week of school before the half-term holiday for my girls. For some reason they get two weeks off in the Autumn term so there are lots of lazy days ahead! For the girls, anyway, rather than me. In the middle weekend of half term I am running the Junior Great South Run. Despite the fact that I look quite young, I am obviously not a Junior, but it is beyond me to run the ten miles required in the Adult GSR. I am running for a group called the Harvey Army; created in memory of a little boy from the school that my girls attend, who died very suddenly on holiday, back in the summer. It was an horrific shock to the school community, and just impossibly sad beyond words. I didn’t know Harvey, or his family, very well, but I do remember a little boy who had the biggest, happiest, most constant smile I think I’ve ever seen around school, and I was so moved by his loss that I felt that I wanted to do something  in his memory. So I shall be running 5k in a couple of weeks. I was training for it by running three times a week, but then last week I developed the worst case of laryngitis I have ever had, and I really felt quite ill. So I haven’t run anywhere for a long time. I keep meaning to start again……..and I will. But only after some Rather Nice Prevarication 🙂



The glamorous life of a writer…..or not.

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

My week is not going as planned, *sigh*.  My washing machine is still broken.  Which means that I have spent some ultra-glamorous time hand-washing underwear and school uniform. Well, I think it’s washed anyway – how can you tell? It’s been in some hot water with washing powder and I moved it around a bit. I obviously couldn’t get it as dry as the spin cycle on the washing machine can, no matter how many times I wrung it out, so the smallest girl has gone to school today in an ever-so-slightly-damp blouse. She looked startled as it went on and complained “But Mummy why does it feel wet?” with great big, innocent, four year old eyes. Then the eldest girl whipped around and said knowingly “Oh I remember that. It’s horrible. You have to wear a vest to soak up the worst.” I sincerely hope that doesn’t come out at school. I did iron it. The washing machine is under a ‘repair or replace’ insurance policy, but the engineer has already been out twice but failed to mend it and I’m not sure how many tries he is allowed. And while he was here I also caught him cleaning my floor and mending my kitchen cupboard so I’m not entirely sure what role he thought he was fulfilling. I wait with anticipation to see what he will try today. Gardening, perhaps? Prayer?

Last week I was also in hospital overnight with my smallest daughter. As I have already mentioned she has 22q11 deletion (a genetic abnormality), part of which is something called a sub-glottic stenosis. This is a narrowing of her trachea, which can cause problems when she has a cold or cough, especially croup. Guess what she developed last week? Croup. Her breathing deteriorated beyond what we deemed acceptable and we took her to the hospital one evening to be checked. It was a fascinating experience. Upon entering the out-of-hours clinic I noticed that all of the chairs were super-size, I could have fitted in them twice over easily. Then we went in to the examination room where I noticed that again the bed was enormously wide. As the doctor wrote up some notes after his initial examination, I asked: “Are these chairs and beds deliberately big?”

“Yes,” he replied. “This is an obesity clinic during the day. And over in that room we have scales more normally associated with the zoo.” I was avid with curiosity, but my child couldn’t breathe so I thought I’d better stay put.  (I’d like to stress that this was before the damp blouse incident.)

My husband and I are reasonably intelligent and educated, with a vested interest in 22q, which always leads to the assumption that we are medically qualified as we chatter about T-cells, aberrant subclavian arteries, etc. and therefore to the question: “What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a writer,” I told this doctor.

“Really?” he said. “Really, a writer? Wow.”  (Chair swivels round, full attention upon me as my child gasps in the background). He had by this stage decided that she needed to be admitted and was in the process of filling out an admission form for her.




“Wow,” (wonderingly), “Wow. I’ve always wanted to meet a writer.” (Pen dangles from hand, form forgotten).

“Oh – right,” (smiled uneasily).

“Anyway, anyway,” he says hastily. “I suppose I’d better fill this in,” (concentrates on the form momentarily). “But can I just ask – where do you get your ideas from?”

“Lots of places. Usually just human observation, my own experiences – you know.”

“Wow, I just think it’s amazing,” (pen dangles from hand, form forgotten). “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

“I’m sure you could. You must have lots of interesting stories. Have you – er – finished the-”

“Not sure they’re interesting. Only medical things.”

“Well there you are. Could we possibly have the – er – ” (child gasps in the background).

“At least when you die you know you’ve done something useful with your life,” he announces.

“But you save people’s lives,” I respond incredulously. (At this point I was hoping my daughter would be among the number.)

“Well yes, but no-one’s going to remember me for that.”

“I’m not so sure.”

“What do you write?”

“Fiction. Women’s fiction.”

“Oh, chick-lit, is it?”

“Yes. I’d say it’s in that category. Could we – er – ” (I indicate the form)

“What’s the name of the book?”

Things He Never Knew. Just Google me – Sarah Haynes – the details will come up.”

“Right, right I definitely will. Anyway, I suppose we’d better – here you go – the form. This isn’t the sort of thing you’d write about is it?”

“No,” I said sweetly. “Not at all. But it’s going on twitter.”

My husband had remained silent throughout this exchange, but as we walked away from the clinic (husband didn’t allow me to go looking for the zoo-scales), he just smirked and said, “My, my, haven’t you made a new friend.” I think there’s about a 70% chance that the doctor concerned will read this and Dr X – if you do, don’t be offended, I’m not poking fun, you just amused me. It’s quite flattering, really.

Anyway, the really bad thing: my manuscript has not progressed at all this week. I am still stuck in seemingly-eternal conflict about whether to write in the first or third person. I started off in the third, realised that this story lends itself far better to being written in the first so I changed and it all went swimmingly for a few thousand words. Then I got stuck, couldn’t progress the plot, doubted my decision and so began the debate. And you remember in my last blog post when I said I’d decided to be brave and stick with the first person? Well, I wasn’t brave. I umm-ed and ahh-ed about it and decided I’d made a dreadful mistake and I had better change the 11,000 words I’d written back into the third person. But when I started doing it I realised that it would require an entire re-write: I write totally differently in the first and third person. This showed me that if I did go back to the third person I would be ruining the story. So the end result is that I’ve gone round in a great big circle and ended up exactly where I was before – writing in the first person and having to be brave. I think the secret is to write regularly (which I am bad at, my general habit is to write thousands of words in a day and then nothing for a week) so I don’t find it too hard to get inside my character’s mind. If I leave it too long I do struggle and then I start doubting myself….

I have no more publisher news. As far as I am aware, Daisychain is still languishing in the inboxes of editors scattered around London.  It’s not too bad waiting though, with each day that passes I am a day closer to hearing some news; good or bad. It will come eventually.

And speaking of bad news, I was sad to hear about Steve Jobs death today. What an amazing, talented, determined person. What he achieved in his lifetime was just extraordinary and will never be forgotten. I’m not a technological person, but he certainly revolutionised the way that I thought about technology and I can’t be the only one. He can take full credit for my figure in fact, because without my iPod I would never go running. Isn’t it funny how just putting a single, lower-case letter in front of a word can have such a dramatic effect upon its success? Well, no, not funny because all it’s doing is including it in the brand and therefore guaranteeing success, it’s astounding I mean: iPod….. iPhone…..iMac…..iPad…..