Keep going – hardest part of a writer's journey

‘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.

girl-looking-at-phone-1995455_1920 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.




Monique Mulligan

Monique Mulligan

0 Responses

  1. That’s great feedback – the agent saying ‘you’re a terrific writer’. I hope you get a positive response from your second agent; it sounds like your manuscript has a great deal of potential.

  2. Good for you, Monique. As you know, I’ve never doubted you — not even for a minute. Give yourself time to absorb the agent’s messages, and time to get a second opinion before you start making any creative and editing decisions. Keep the faith; your story is definitely one worth sharing. XX

  3. I think it’s brilliant news that you received feedback and have been asked to resubmit with some changes. I think your onto a winner there xxx

  4. A great post Monique. Very honest. Rejection (even a good one like this) is a challenge and the easiest option is to give up or opt out. But it is also a way of making us work harder and helping clarify what we truly want. Sometimes a slight change of direction is useful. If you truly believe in yourself as a writer and in your manuscript your work will find a home.

    1. Thank you, Pamela. I know other writers will relate, which is why I shared. When you send your book off, you’re so happy, so proud of it, aren’t you? At that time, you can’t conceive that anything would or could be different. Even if, underneath, doubts quiver.

      This is teaching me to think hard and long about the “kill your darlings” message, that’s for sure.

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