I had a rejection yesterday

a really bad one. The agent concerned didn’t use the actual word ‘drivel’, but she might as well have done; the sentiment was certainly there, skulking in the shadows of those snapping, bitchy, irritable, frustrated lines.

It hurt. It depressed me rather badly. I’m having a hard time getting over it.

I’m not sure why I’ve taken this particular email quite so badly to heart, I’ve been rejected over and over and over again; it’s not my first rejection by a long chalk, but it’s far and away the harshest. Maybe what hurt the most is the hideous fear that she’s right, that my work stinks like a skip-full of week-old herring.

I love my characters and my story and I know the sane attitude is that all taste is subjective, literary taste especially, but when a respectable literary professional says your writing is weak, your ideas derivative, well… Maybe it really is time to call it a day?

Do I accept her judgement and abandon the work of the past three years? Or do what I usually do, what I’ve been doing for over a year now, what every writer’s advisory says you should do, which is pick myself up and carry on…

I’m not sure I’m capable of either response right now. I’m not sure I could give it up (what else would I do?), but to carry on regardless seems equally impossible. I’d love to have the thing professionally assessed and edited, but with fees for that starting at £800, that’s out of the question for now. I know I need to stop and think, re-asses, certainly, re-write – again (how many drafts is it now…?).

Taking a leaf from every unsigned band out there as they remind the (often genuinely stupid, self-obsessed and fatuous, believe me, I’ve met a few) disrespectful-of-their-genius A&R man about The Man From Decca Who Turned Down The Beatles, here is the obligatory bitter-litany of famous writers that were rejected by stoopid agents/editors/publishers! Of course I know it’s ultimately pointless and meaningless, but it still cheers me up no end.

Unknown editor to Rudyard Kipling: ‘I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.’

Unknown editor to Zane Grey: ‘I do not see anything in this to convince me you can write either narrative or fiction.’

Irving Stone’s Lust for Life: ‘ A long, dull novel about an artist.

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies: ‘An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.’

J G Ballard’s Crash: ‘The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help.’

Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu: My dear fellow, I may be dead from the neck up, but rack my brains as I may I can’t see why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s Nebula and Hugo award winning The Left Hand of Darkness: The book is so endlessly complicated by details of reference and information, the interim legends become so much of a nuisance despite their relevance, that the very action of the story seems to be to become hopelessly bogged down and the book, eventually, unreadable. The whole is so dry and airless, so lacking in pace, that whatever drama and excitement the novel might have had is entirely dissipated by what does seem, a great deal of the time, to be extraneous material.

And my favourite –  ‘You’re welcome to le Carré – he hasn’t got any future.’

Looking for more? You could do worse than read the comments on the Writer’s Relief site for some interesting and refreshing thoughts on rejection and the excellent blog, Literary Rejections on Display.

Scattered energies

Writing – sort of, trying to pick up where I left off after a difficult couple of days dealing with difficulties on the domestic front.

I seem to have rather a lot of projects on the go. There’s Entanglement, of course; still tinkering, editing, fine-tuning – whenever I look at it, there seems to be something else that could be better done.

Newer projects still have the sheen of the shiny, with that deliciously tempting New Novel smell. There’s Shed, of course. It started life in my mind as a radio sitcom but seems to have turned into a novel. Shed is lightly comic and more than a bit silly and, maybe it’s a mood thing, something to do with the descent into Winter, but I find myself turning ‘Shed’ ideas over in my head more and more frequently lately.

Then there’s The People of The Book of Ten. Ten is a huge and complex animal, a myriad of plot lines I have to somehow weave into a pleasing tapestry, but is, right now, more like my attempts at knitting, baggy, half-finished, full of holes.

Ten has three separate worlds, all of which have to be painted in full, detailed glowing technicolor 3D, then stitched into the body of the thing.  Ten is BIG. It’s complicated. In short, it’s hard work. I enjoy tinkering with the details, naming towns, creating landscapes, making gorgeous maps in photoshop and other diversionary tactics, building a plot from this multitude of ideas is a bit too much for me at the moment, hence all the tinkering and fiddling with Shed and The Kaleidoscope Man.

I feel in limbo with my writing. Until something definitive happens with Entanglement, it’s going to be constantly lurking at the back of my mind. I’m always thinking about it: should I do this, should I do that? Should I send it here, there or nowhere. I can’t move on. Everything else I’m working on feels like a distraction, an excuse, a prevarication.

Can editing drive you mad?

I believe I am living proof that it can. Ever since I began the last read-through prior to publication, those ultimate fine-tooth-comb checks, I have been in a very strange mental state indeed; a state that carries through into my dreams, which have become so strange and frightening I dare not write them down. ha ha, only joking. Or am I…?

Mostly, I have become plagued by the conviction that the book is full of tedious repetition and endless navel gazing. It’s not, I have checked, repeatedly (believe me, I HAVE checked many, many, many times). I think it’s just I’ve read the same passages so often, they haunt my sleep and every waking moment.

I cannot wait for this thing to be finished.

I hate tennis

Deed I do. I hate it like a big hatey thing made of stinky, shitty hate.

Bloody, bloody Wimbledon. It infests our screens for two weeks a year like a itchy and embarrassing skin disease. It is made of the most epic dull – and now I find they’ ve cancelled Supersizers because of it, the only thing worth watching today.

Do not cross me people for I have killed before.

In other news, I finally got re-started on t’book (rhymes with spook) today after a several-days hiatus. Chapter 9, Forster, re-written and made goodly in mine sight. I have 11 and 12 all ready of course, from before I re-jigged the chapter order but now have a new one to write tomorrow in which Angel stays off work a week (after his unpleasantness with the ebil Rev. Forster) which will be the NEW! chapter 10 and which I hope to write tomorrow.

Currently watching a QI repeat on Dave, the only half-decent thing I can find to watch on telly this balmy scented summer evening. Hey ho the nonny, I expect I shall live, regardless.

Entanglement status: 12 chapters, 46,793 words.

I just wrote the last sentence…

Of the last chapter of the first draft of my (still unnamed) novel. I’m a  long way from breaking out the victory shimmy yet, alas. Tomorrow I’ll start the long read through, noting where all the holes are, where I’ll need more back story and character elaboration, making the list of  new chapters that’ll have to be written. It’s currently 137,000 words. Already too long, and lots more to go. I see a damn hard edit in my future.

I spent all morning writing…

A chapter with a yawning sense of deja vu. ‘I’ve already written this,’ I thought and – ‘deed I had, on the old lappy and forgot to transfer it over. Result: 2 hours of work = about 230 extra words I can use. And the old chapter was so much better than the newer version.

Of course it was.

The novel is ongoing

The writing is going very well. Not a lot more in the way of fresh wordage, but a lot of progress on the story and motivation and stuff like that.

I spent a whole day working on one character, Jess; working through each phase of her story from the moment the protagonist meets her until her disappearance and in so doing, I found not only the ending, but the whole meaning of the story!

It’s hard to describe because it’s a complicated tale but, brief as I can – Originally Jess was the crux of the story – she was the reason everything goes wrong for me ‘hero’ (he’s not very heroic) but then, scrapped that and she just became the consequence of events going awry – then I realised she was far more important – not the reason for what happens, but the meaning

I’m not explaining it well. Take it from me that what I discovered as I worked through these chapters was crucial and has made me happy.

As for the the ending, I already had it, I worked it out a few weeks ago, but not the reason for it. It’s quite a sad ending on the surface, and rather cruel to two important characters and I couldn’t work out why – then I realised that this character Jess is so important – she gives the whole thing meaning and makes the end, far from sad and downbeat, actually makes it a hopeful and positive thing.

Current word count; 58.812,

Writing is easy

Plotting is work.

That is all.

(Oh bugger. How can I have strayed so far from the path? How can it all have gone so wrong when I worked it out so carefully?! How could my carefully constructed plot have turned out to be such a load of big, hairy, pendulous bollox? This is going to take hours to fix


Saturday Update..

Slow but steady. I’ve just finished a brief chapter of The Novel in which we first meet poor Jess. I have a slightly dodgy but respectable 1,450 words which brings the current total to 26,065 words.

Such was my week. I have nothing much else to say, really. I’ve cleaned here and there, chopped some wood, shopped, read four books and written two reviews.

My life is insufferably dull. I hope you’re all having a simply marvellous weekend my lovely wee piglets. Keep the home fires burning – unless you’re on the bottom half of this most goodly orb in which case, light no fires and may all the Gods send you nice breezes to cool your bottoms with.