‘In writing, the hardest part of the journey is to keep going.’ – LAURIE STEED
Author and editor Laurie Steed shared that nugget of writer-ly wisdom with me when he finished assessing a short story I’d written.
A week after receiving a “not yet” rejection from an agent, I’m struck by how true those words are. It’s so easy to lose enthusiasm, motivation and confidence when you have a setback. But here’s the thing … you don’t have to.
Allow yourself to feel the deflation, pain, sadness, confidence-burst, frustration – whatever it is – but don’t let yourself be knocked over.
My rejection was not an outright no. Here’s what the agent said: “You have created very real and sympathetic characters and the world of a small town is terrifically realised. But I felt the novel was far too long.” She made some suggestions about how I could rewrite a few parts (including cutting my dinner party scenes – gasp!), and then said she would be happy to re-read if I wanted to tackle those rewrites.
When I that email first pinged on my phone, I was so excited … so excited that I didn’t read it straight away. I read others first, procrastinating and dithering, and then I opened this one. Excitement turned to deflation in an instant. I felt like a balloon puffed with air that had been pricked with a sharp object. It was a no!
I’ll confess here that for a few moments I thought of chucking it all in. Of just working in publishing. Of giving up on my dream. For those few short moments, I let doubt sidle in and run the party.
It was only on later readings of that email that I realised it was not an outright no. It was a ‘not yet’. It’s not quite ready, she was saying. But don’t give up, she was also saying. Her exact words: ‘You are a terrific writer’.
What to do next, I wondered. Two people told me to send it to more agents. Another said to wait a few days, to write something else for a bit. Online articles suggested I should have sent the novel to several agents at a time – different agents will have different opinions. Had I stuffed up already?
In the week since that email, I’ve finished the short romance I’d been working on. I’ve finished editing two other projects for Serenity Press. I designed a mock book cover for another Serenity Press book … and only briefly turned my attention to Wherever You Go.
I made notes of the agent’s suggestions. And then I sent the ms as is to another agent. I’d like another opinion on one suggestion – my beta readers, all authors/writers, had loved a certain aspect and been surprised by the way it played out, but the first agent wasn’t as sure.
I’ve set Wherever You Go aside for a bit while I mull over the first agent’s points and work out how I can do things differently. For my next novel, I had planned to follow on from Wherever You Go, but I’ve decided to set that aside as well, and focus on another project.
The short story I mentioned at the start? Laurie Steed suggested it had the scope for a novel, something I had already been thinking about. I pulled out his assessment the other day, and then started making notes for how I can expand the story. That excitement is back.
I’ve shouldered my writer’s backpack, with all its words, ideas, doubts, setbacks and baggage, and I’m keeping on going.