As have two other agencies thus far. I couldn’t really expect anything else. After all, I am a first time writer, the process is still very naive and my work probably needs a hell of a lot of rehashing to make it more appealing. But no amount of research into how to write, what to write, how to sell etc can realistically prepare a first time manuscript completely.
So what can I do?
Firstly, I could offer it up to friends to read and give me some advice on what its lacking, what needs ‘fleshing out’ and probably most importantly, what they would delete entirely! The beauty of giving samples to friends is the safety. I get quite embarrassed at the thought of someone reading my work, a confidence issue I sorely need to get over, so having my nearest and dearest look over my endeavours is quite comforting, I know its not going to be completely slammed in a horrid way. However, this is also a big, big negative. I would like to think my friends know me well enough to be able to give me real criticism, but there is always the potential for them not to, especially if my work is REALLY awful! Friends don’t like to upset one another unduly, plus they are biased – of course they are going to support your work, its an extension of them supporting you and your choices in life. To slam my work, in their minds, may be to slam me personally.
Besides, as we all know, life is an ever increasing whirlwind of ‘to-do lists’. Our hectic schedules and demands on everyday being means precious few of my friends have the time in which to read my work, despite their best intentions. They are employed in so many other things, work, children, social lives and simply trying to stay a float. What makes me so pretentious as to think they have time to read my waffle? They are not paid to do so, and fitting in 30,000+ words of potential unreadable guff into an already unmanageable world is definitely not a priority.
So, another option? I could pay a company to proof read my endeavours. This may have to be an option, but the lack of current disposable income means that this thought has to be carefully planned out and researched. But before that can happen, I need to ‘man up’. I need to get over this crippling hurdle of insecurity. I have no problem in believing in my work, I know the stories in my head have potential, but I have to accept that at the moment, they are not necessarily as strong as they could be. I have to allow strangers to look at it and provide me with the critique they need, and to not take it personally.
But that’s the issue isn’t it. To not take it personally. If you spend hours, days, months and years pouring out thoughts and ideas from your own world then someone completely shreds it, how could you not take it personally? It is a labour of love that produces the pages and if someone began digging a big gaping whole in your work, they may as well be chiselling through your heart. I know it sounds dramatic, but writing is a part of the person who produces it. It is, at the very least an attempt to be, heartfelt, sincere and personal; it is the writer itself. The two are hard to separate and so is the criticism.
But maybe that is the problem; I haven’t actually had any criticism yet. I have had three letters back from agents, one saying they were full, and two simply saying that the work was not suitable for them. Agents, it would seem, don’t send feedback on these preliminary requests. I would imagine if they requested the whole manuscript after the initial submission, and then rejected it, further feedback may be provided. I don’t know, I haven’t got that far yet.
Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks I shall have the shell of my Civil War fiction complete. At which point I am going to put it in a folder to forget about for a while. One of the issues with the first 9-12 fiction I wrote, was that I soon new pretty much every word written. It made it hard for me to look at it with a critical eye, I knew it too well. But that one has been ‘ignored’ now for a few months, so hopefully when I come back to it, it should be easier to critique and edit. Likewise, by the time I have finished that, the new book should be clearer too. It will give me time and practice at being harsh to myself, something I have to say I am quite good at, so that maybe it will help thicken the skin for external criticism. I can only hope.
The rejections haven’t upset me, they have just made me think a little more. Of course I am disappointed, but I expected nothing else right now. Of course I would love to have an agent, of course I would adore having a publishing contract, but they are distant dreams. For the moment I have one dream and one desire, that my words be read by someone other than me. Until that point, nothing is quite real and my characters and worlds don’t exist. Life needs to be breathed into them and in turn, back into me.