Here it is [slightly shortened] - and, for the benefit of any of you who wonder why you've followed all my advice and still aren't published, please note that Point 3 is in your hands, not mine...
I did get some "stuff" published during that time, but it wasn't enough. Educational books and stacks of magazine articles. I still get money from a magazine I wrote for ten years ago which keeps using my articles and pays me every time, with me sitting at home doing sod all - would you believe that today I actually sold "36th rights" for three articles?? Who needs to be a novelist when you get paid 36 times for something you can't even remember writing?
And there was the odd moment of relative success [relative to abject failure], like appearing in Reader's Digest with my photo and being recognised on a bus, and a story winning an expensive pen in the Ian St James awards, and a couple of times almost making it through an aquisitions meeting. But almost is not enough.
Anyway, reasons for my abject failure:
- I thought I was better than I was. I didn't know what mistakes I was making. This was in pre-blog days, when people like me [as in me now, not me then - me then would have been pretty useless] weren't sharing and telling me what shocking errors I was making.
- I wasn't thinking of my readers. Couldn't give a toss about them - yep, it was all for me. Moi, moi, moi. Self-indulgent, beauteous prose, right up my own backside, just gorgeous, over-written plotless stuff that gave me shivers of pride, and gave any potential reader a severe case of "where the hell's the plot gone or going and I mean why should we CARE about your drivellingly unlikely character who murdered her husband just because of some arcane psychological problem to do with Samuel Johnson which we are supposed to guess through the boring fog of your however-erudite turgidity?
- I hadn't written the right book. As in a book with a concept which would grab the agent / publisher with its stupendous hook, draw them into a tightly-written and either original or genre-specific plot, written by an author exuding wisdom and knowledge of the market. (Actually, I thought woman who murders husband because he's fat was quite good hook-wise, but hey, that was then.) See here for my post on this topic. (Not murders of fat husbands: I mean writing the right book.)
- I wasn't following the rules of submissions to publishers, despite the fact that I roll my eyes at you lot for sending toffees to agents and being similarly foolish. In fact, once I even .... but no, I can't tell you that. It's too embarrassing.
So, if you are now in the position I was in then - one of soul-searing awfulness, when you feel that life will be utterly meaningless if you don't get that contract, when your whole belief in yourself is shaken daily - I feel your pain, I really do.
Thing is, I wasn't good enough. And maybe ... sorry ... you aren't either. But maybe, by listening and learning and improving, you can become good enough. But remember too that it's not just about being good enough - it's about writing the right book at the right time and sending it to the right publisher at the right time. I've said it before. I could even become boring. (If you need a reminder, use the label "right book" on the list of labels to the right.)
The trick, and the one which this blog tries to help with, is to work out whether:
- you are good enough but haven't written the right book yet
- you are good enough and have possibly written the right book really beautifully but haven't sent it to the right person in the right way
- you aren't good enough but could become so, with time, practice and/or help
- you aren't good enough and won't ever be published satisfactorily
After that brutality and after all these weeks of listening to me seem to know it all, you deserve to know that embarrassing thing I did. I can trust you now. Please don't laugh.
Here goes. Deep breath. Will you still respect me? I was young then. Young and really stupid.
The thing is ...
People! Don't do it!
ADDED ON DEC 6th:
I cannot say this often enough: writing the right book is far more important than anything else. The right book is a book that a publisher thinks can sell sufficiently [which does not have to mean millions]. If you focus too much on whether the font should be Georgia or TNR, or whether it should be stapled or paper-clipped, you are focusing on the wrong things. Write the right damn book in the right damn way and send it to the right damn publishers in the rightish way and it will eventually be published. And don't tell me you followed all the rules and failed so the rules must be wrong. Nope, because you missed the most important rule: writing the right book. And my whole point in banging out crabbit words on this blog for nearly a year is this:
I do not want you to take as long as I did. But I cannot write the book for you.Maybe I need to say more about what makes the right book. At last, the Crabbit Old Bat has a brainwave!
Meanwhile, if any of you want individual feedback on your own books or Works in Progress, there is Pen2Publication. I can do quite a lot to show you if you have or haven't written a potentially right book".