I signed with a literary agent for my novel The Art of Letting Go. I'd only been trying to get an agent for a few weeks when I got some interest (this time round, anyway - with a previous book, I'd been through the months of disappointment that are part of writer's training), so it all seemed like a joyous whirlwind of activity. For a couple of months I did a combination of re-write my novel, put together a publishing proposal with my agent and plan my next novel under the working title Derailed.
In early March The Art of Letting Go was taken out of my hands and sent off to publishers. This was the beginning of TryPat.
Of course, any writer will tell you that Patience doesn't equate to Idleness. There are always more stories to be written. In the last few months I've written a couple of pieces of flash fiction - most recently a ridiculous and flippant piece on the end of conspiracy theories - and I've spent some time editing old stories with the hope of entering them into competitions or submitting them to publications.
My main project however, has been working on Derailed. I'm just about to start the second draft. Concentrating on a new set of characters has been a great way to distract myself from TryPat. The distance it has created between my old characters and me has eased the pain of rejections coming from publishers. And, oh, there has been rejection.
I've written about rejection before. Twice in fact. So there's no need for me to go into another lament here. But you understand how it is. Every time I go on Twitter there seems to be another writer winning a publishing deal just a couple of months after signing with an agent. Virtual champagne corks are popping in every direction. I'm happy for those writers of course (and at least one writer I know wrote a blog post about how his book took a long-ish time to find a publisher), and I know how getting an agent alone makes me extrememly fortunate, but it's hard sometimes to continue Being Patient.
Rejections from publishers, I've found, are different from agent rejections. Most publishers seem to give a reason for their rejection, which is helpful and often encouraging. The curious thing to me has been knowing an agent is discussing me with a publisher. There are two people out there discussing my work as part of their professional jobs. I remind myself of that when I'm feeling dispirited. Not that I feel too dispirited - somehow I'm finding it easy enough not to take rejections personally so far, perhaps because some of them have been complimentary. My rejections, tend to fit into three categories:
- The ones that make me wince. Not exactly rude or brutal, but fairly unforgiving. I've only had two of these I think (unless I'm psychologically blocking the others out!)
- The thanks but no thanks. These are usually charming but don't tell me much. At least with the painful ones, I know what they didn't like and can add it to my 'potential edits' list. These ones liked the book, but didn't like it enough, leaving me with nothing more to add to the list than "make book more likeable".
- The enthusiastic no. I have had several complimentary rejections so far. These both make my day (who doesn't like being told their writing is beautiful or confident, that their main character is vivid, or the book is well-plotted?) and frustrate me. Close but no cigar.
So, three to four months into submissions and there's a lot to be encouraged by - editors seem to see something in my book - but still no guarantee of publication. And so, like all writers stuck in the middle of TryPat, all I can do is sit down at my desk each day with a bunch or characters and try to answer the question: What happens next?
How do you deal with Trying to be Patient?