That first novel…
Damn, what a feeling it was when I finished it. Months of early mornings, pouring my soul into a word processor. Watching the characters appear, forming lines, pages, chapters.
I don’t think anything I’ve ever done gave the same sense of achievement and pride as when I wrote that final line and deemed my work complete. There was no talk of drafts or edits. There were no doubts: I’d written a best seller and, by the end of the year, I’d be doing chat shows and book signings.
Can you even begin to imagine my sense of shock when I sent it to an agent, and they rejected it? I was caught midway between fury and desolation. I mean, how could they fail to recognise just what a talent I was?
In the ‘old days’ there were no other options other than woo an agent or pay a fortune to a publisher to ‘vanity’ print copies of your novel and, being the old fashioned type, I’d chosen an agent. Chosen. Damn, there’s arrogance for you.
And then they said no.
I think it took about another year of writing several hours every day before I realised why they’d rejected me. – My novel was crap, and my prose immature. THANK GOD I didn’t self publish. I mean, it’s bad enough confronting your own ineptness in private. Just imagine how bad it would have been if I’d thrown it on Amazon and shown the entire world…
It’s the better part of five and half years since I first started writing, and I think I’m just starting to get the hang of it. I can laugh at the festering guff I used to create, and remember how pleased I was with myself at the time. Back in early 2011 I was checking the price of local stately homes, imagining I’d be putting a deposit down on one from my advance cheque.
Yeh, thank God I didn’t take my own counsel and self publish.
It was only recently I realised that the first ten novels I’d written were now consigned to the hazmat bin, and perhaps one or two of my most recent six may join them too. – I don’t lament saying farewell to a substandard novel, but I do make sure I understand just why it fell short, and hope I’ve learned enough to make the next one a little better.
It’s hard to learn from other people’s mistakes, as you don’t get to feel the pain they felt. I wish you could. How I wish I could take people five years from their first novel and let them look at it through more experienced eyes. I remember back in those early days of writing when I’d look down my nose at other wannabe novelists, sure I was floating on a cloud so far above them that they’d not see me. The truth is we all tend to feel that way in the early days. Ignorance is such bliss, but it’s a bubble each of us has to pop if we’re to find out just where we stand on the literary ladder. Without that knowledge, how do can we plan the route to real awesome rather than the imaginary one we teleport ourselves to?
I’ll be up tomorrow morning at 4:45am writing a couple of thousand more words that, perhaps, no one will ever get to read. Still, it’ll be a day closer to when I can write words that others will read and enjoy.
Yeh, it would have been the death of me if I’d self published five years ago. – I could see myself now still ringing social media’s bell and begging people to read it, but I’d make it feel more respectable by calling it marketing.
Instead I’m just writing and waiting for the day I’ve exorcised the last of the substandard words.