There are blog posts that are easy to write and those that feel like you are picking your way slowly, carefully, through a swamp that may or may not contain something you don’t want to meet. This is one of the latter.
I didn’t make the grade.
If I’m honest, this wasn’t a huge surprise for a number of reasons not least of which was the amount of work that was required to turn the manuscript into something approaching a presentable draft in a relatively short period of time.
To give you some idea of what my March and April looked like, this was a typical day:
5.30am – Get up: write.
6.30am – Commute: answer email.
8am – Dayjob.
12-1pm – Skip lunch for dayjob.
2-6.30pm – Dayjob.
6.30-8pm – Commute home: answer sleep.
8-9pm – Dinner.
9-10.30pm – write.
10.30-12pm – Dayjob work.
12-5.30pm – Sleep (or write if unable to sleep).
Yeah, I drank enough coffee to keep a small trading house awake…
I think the point where I stopped believing it was going to work was around the third week of April but then I am a stupid stubborn bastard.
Moreover, this had ceased to be about getting past the first hurdle to editorial (where I thought I would wipe out, rather than where I did) and had become a line in the sand. It was about the ever encroaching tide of my dayjob and what I was prepared to give up to earn a crust.
If I couldn’t do this simple thing, if I couldn’t take the gamble, what was the point?
It was…it is: B-O-L-L-O-C-K-S.
I’ve read slush. I’ve done editorial work. I know when something isn’t there yet.
The fact I hadn’t even drafted a query letter was a big clue, if I had bothered to think about it for longer than five minutes…
I expected to get rejected. Honestly.
I did expect to get past the first hurdle. Looking back, I have no idea why because – given what was going on in work – it seems ridiculous I could even string a sentence together that had nothing to do with digital or online recruitment but at the time I did believe I could and I recall clearly telling G that.
Perhaps it was a slight of hand I played on myself to get me to send the damn thing out of the door? Whatever. It doesn’t matter.
I didn’t expect feedback. Officially, I didn’t get any but one of the fringe benefits of having kicked around the circuit for a few years is that I know quite a few people, even if only by name, and a lot of them are on twitter…
So I got feedback and it was unexpected and it was awful and…
It Was What I Needed To Hear.
Yep, that’s right. Lesson Number One of getting better at anything:
Feedback is a gift. However much it hurts.
The feedback was that one of the main conceits of the novel hadn’t worked for the reader. It was also apparent that the conceit hadn’t been painted clearly enough because this wasn’t an area of the story that should have been open to misinterpretation and it was.
Now the shock’s gone…
That’s really useful learning. Feedback I can take and use in future work to make my writing better and I will.
So what do I do now?
The Scarred God is going in the trunk. It’s unlikely I’ll go back to it. The manuscript is tighter than it was, the ending more coherent, but I’ve no plans to submit it to either agents or publishers.
If you want to read the whole thing – and I know you in the real world – drop me a message by any of the usual channels.
All you have to pay me with is constructive feedback.
Before this debacle, I had the goal of writing a new novel this year. That’s still an achievable goal: I already planned out the book and had a decent chunk written prior to all this.
For me, the plan is to finish that project because I like the idea and I was having fun with it before I paused. It has to be fun or what’s the point?
So you’re giving up on publication?
No. I just intend to submit the best work I believe I am capable of and I know in my gut that The Scarred God probably isn’t that book. I need to tell other stories.
That’s going to be hard on the free time you have…
Yes. I know.
However, I do seem to have finally realised, synthesised or clicked that I can’t do everything, that I’m ultimately not that important or essential that I need to destroy myself on the back of every crisis that comes my way.
I’ll be back…