Sunday, 25 January 2015

Keep Calm and Never Give Up

Yesterday I reached the symbolic 10,000 word milestone for novel three. At times the writing just seems to flow and pour out of me. It’s funny how the words were written so naturally, when oftentimes compiling sentences can be very laborious and tedious if you’re not in the mood. In fact I think my approach to novel writing is slightly shifting. I used to set myself a daily target: 1,000 words, or at least a minimum of 500. That way I could think about daily progress. I was relentless yet comfortable. That strategy was applicable for Out of Bounds, a bit less for The Perfectionist. And I know it’s still early for this third opus. I tend to write less frequently. But when I do, I pen down more words... I’m liking the shape my manuscript is taking.

I’m also beginning to dive into my main character’s mind and becoming more and more familiar with his way of being and thinking. I guess I’ve become a real method actor/writer! With regard to the subject matter of novel three, alas I cannot say much at all for the time being. I’m not someone who puts the cart before the horse, and I’d hate to jinx the whole undertaking. All I can disclose though is that it’s my first non-US setting and closer to my roots.

Before I can tell you more about novel three, I have to update you on novel two, The Perfectionist. It’s been three weeks now since I’ve started contacting literary agents (mainly in London), and so far, not much to report. That’s normal. Most agencies will only get back to me in 6-8 weeks’ time. With the exception of a few promising leads, those who already have replied have been rejections. It’s tough, it hurts your pride, but it’s part of the game. I’m facing stiff competition (agents receive hundreds of manuscripts). Moreover I have no idea if my submissions are timely or if the subject matter is of relevance in the agents’ eyes on a given day: their opinions are subjective.

Here’s a good example of a rejection I got last week:

“Many thanks for sending us this proposal, which I read with interest. I considered it carefully but I’m afraid on balance it just doesn’t quite grab my imagination in the way that it must for me to offer to represent you. So I must follow my instinct and pass on this occasion. I’m really sorry to be so disappointing, but thanks for thinking of us. Of course this is a totally subjective judgement, so do try other agents and I wish you every success.”

That’s a kind “No”, isn't it?

I later found out that this was a standard and automated form of rejection. However, I have received a few personal replies too reflecting how agencies must remain “sensitive to the demands of the commercial market”. I was also told by one agency that the novel is not “something it could be 100% confident of being able to handle successfully”. I wonder. What does it take to reach 100% confidence, assuming that such a level of confidence exists?

I bear no grudges and I am not disappointed. It’s all part of the process of seeking representation. I write these words more as means to illustrate the difficult road ahead of writers seeking to be published.

On a side note, I should have news in March with regard to my entry for the “Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2015 Short Story Competition”. The deadline for submissions is February 15th, and after that a panel of judges will decide on a shortlist. More of a short-term project for me, but my fingers are crossed for Wartime Girl.