Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Keep Writing

Firstly! A fantastic new blog for all things UK YA has been launched, courtesy of Keris Stainton, Keren David and Susie Day. Check it out for book recommendations, reviews, guest posts and more.

Secondly! I'm taking part in Crits for Water 2012, which has been set up by the fab Kat Brauer. You can donate to charity:water in return for critiques of your work from authors, agents and editors. I'm not up till June, but the campaign is already running, and there are some amazing critiques to bid for. So go! Bid!

Thirdly! The details of the Derbyshire Literature Festival are up, and you can find out more about mine, Chelsey Flood's and Helen Mort's event on 15th May, where we'll be answering questions about our writing and getting published here. We'll also be reading from our upcoming debuts, so you could get a sneak preview of the opening chapter of ACID!

Fourthly! I have an interview up at fellow Lucky 13 Mindy McGinnis's awesome Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire blog, where you can read more about my writing process, how I got my lovely agent and what it was like to be querying and out on submission.

Which brings me to today's post… 

This time last year, ACID was still being sent out to publishers. I’d already had one book out on sub that hadn’t sold, although it was a near miss. With that book, I hadn’t found the process too stressful, because (and this probably sounds pretty naive) I had an agent! Surely that meant my book would sell… right?

Wrong. Because they don’t. Not always. No-one was to blame – it just wasn’t the right book, and it wasn’t the right time, and eventually, my agent and I agreed we should put the MS to rest.

While that first novel (a contemporary YA) was doing the rounds, I’d already written another, which, for various reasons and after about 5 drafts, got trunked. After that, I started writing ACID. Thankfully, that MS worked out, but when my agent sent it out on submission, I didn’t feel quite so sure about anything any more. Because it doesn’t matter how many people (or books, or blogs) tell you to take the rejections in your stride, to move on, it’s hard – really hard – not to let them knock your confidence. Or it is for me, anyway, as, like most people, I suspect, there’s always that tiny voice in my ear telling me nothing I do is any good. That voice I have to ignore at all costs if I want to get anything written at-all.

This time last year, that voice nearly got the better of me.

With each rejection, I got more miserable and stressed. I was trying to work on a new book, but I wasn’t enjoying it because my confidence had dipped so low. I started to question whether I should be a writer at-all. And I lost sight of the most important thing of all – the writing itself.

Then, right in the middle of all this, I remember asking myself, does my life depend on getting published right now?

And I asked myself, If ACID doesn’t sell, will I stop writing?

The answer to both those questions, of course, was No.

It didn’t make the rejections any less disappointing, and it didn’t quiet my fears that I’d never be a good enough writer to get published, but it did help me gain a sense of perspective about the whole thing. I was putting all my energies into wanting to get published when what I needed to do was put them into my writing. I first started writing (and have kept writing ever since) because I love writing, and I can’t imagine not doing it. I’m also a firm believer that things happen when they’re meant to happen, and reminding myself of that helped too. If I wasn’t meant to get published yet, I wasn’t meant to. Instead, I needed to keep writing, and keep improving.

Easy for you to say, you might think. Your book sold. But it could so easily not have. And if I’d kept get published as my overriding ambition, instead of becoming a better writer, I’m not sure where I’d be right now. Not in a very happy place, that’s for sure.

So if you’re in the query trenches or out on submission right now? Keep writing. Because that’s why you’re there in the first place. And that’s what will get you through… whatever the end result.

32 comments:

  1. Good post, Emma.
    Timely for me as well. I am--well my manuscript actually is--out on submission right now. I've started another project, but still get a stomach full of fiery acid every time I think too much about it. Must remember that it's all about the writing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, good luck, Amanda! I remember that fiery-acid stomach all too well… :S

      Delete
  2. Great post, Emma. Being a writer isn't just sitting at home watching day time TV. We work hard and we stress a lot about stories, style, publications etc. I have two novels on the shelves and a third on the way, and I still worry about . . . everything. Will my books sell? Will people like them? When this contract is completed, will I get another? All the usual stuff. And you're right to focus on what's important - the writing. I know another author who was gorwing very despondent about not placing her novel. She was doom and gloom, telling me she was going to give up writing, jack it all in, and I asked her 'Could you really do that? You could really just not write?' And the truth was, she couldn't. It was in her nature to write. You don't have to be published to be a writer - you just have to write.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Dan! You're spot on. And I don't think the worry ever stops, does it? (And maybe that's what keeps us working!)

      Delete
  3. Lovely post, Emma. It's amazing what a difference it makes when we shift focus from being published to being a better writer. For me, being a writer is a wonderful way of being in the world, and the fact that I can earn a crust from it, an absolute bonus :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jenny. I completely agree!

      Delete
  4. Carolyn Hughes4 April 2012 at 09:43

    Thanks Emma,
    This is exactly what I needed to read!
    All those nasty doubts have now been put to rest and I'm following your great advice to put my energy back into the writing instead of the publishing.
    Love your blog! :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you, Carolyn. I'm glad to hear it! :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. "Easy for you to say, you might think. Your book sold. But it could so easily not have. And if I’d kept get published as my overriding ambition, instead of becoming a better writer, I’m not sure where I’d be right now. Not in a very happy place, that’s for sure."

    THIS. For the win. So very many aspiring writers get those two goals confused - I know I did for a time - but it's getting back to the original aim of writing the best book you possibly can that's the most difficult, but ultimately most rewarding, ambition.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Amy! I think it's impossible not to get those two goals confused sometimes - after all, this is something we want SO badly - but ultimately, the writing has to come first.

      Delete
  7. I hope never to forget why I started writing in the first place. Would I stop writing if I never land an agent within my self imposed timetable? No. I hope not.
    Thanks Emma. I'm on my way to check out the links you shared.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you for this honest post, Emma. I was in query trenches (well, I'm on a break) and even though 30 queries is not a lot, the 29 rejections were. And technically the 30th is kind of a rejection too...just one with a revision request. I constantly remind myself that I am writing because I enjoy it and that even if I don't get an agent/book deal I can self-publish it and hand it out to my family and friends, who have been supporting me since I was little. (LOL At 8 years old, I'd walk around family parties and tell people I was going to grow up to be JK Rowling. Still no theme park...sigh)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A revision request is what happened with my agent before she took me on. Are you going to go for it? Only you know what's right for you and your book, though, so good luck with it, whatever you decide!

      Delete
  9. Very true, rejection is something every writer has to deal with. It can really sap your confidence. You just have to try to 'fail better'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely, Christine. What a great way of putting it! Thank you.

      Delete
  10. So true, Emma--thanks for the post. The fear of never selling a book (or another one) will always be the one constant, so you can't focus on it. You'll drive yourself nuts!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly, Elsie! I'm neurotic enough as it is without worrying about THAT all the time as well. :oP

      Delete
  11. You are so right Emma, we are always worrying about the next book, and the one after that. I don't think that ever really goes away. And these dips, rejections, delays, are meant to be because we do become better writers through going through this process. Yes, the only way to deal with all of this is to keep writing, and keep getting better at it.

    ReplyDelete
  12. This is good advice. I'm working on a new book in between revisions with my agent and it's really helping give me a sense of perspective and a bit of distance from the ms we'll go out with.

    When I get rejections, or if it doesn't sell, I might even have a new completed ms to focus on : )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! That's what I try to do too. It definitely helps to have something new to take your mind off things!

      Delete
  13. Lovely post, Emma. I think persistence is probably one of THE defining qualities of a writer. Glad we'll get to read ACID, but now I was to read the contemporary YA too!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Claire! I think so too. And as for the contemporary… well, never say never! :D

      Delete
  14. Congratulations on your book deal, Emma. Your post is an inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I'm glad you liked it.

      Delete
  15. Thanks for this post Emma, you've no idea how timely it is ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Kate. Good luck with everything!

      Delete
  16. YES! What a great post, Emma. Through all the stresses and strains, only one thing can keep us going: writing!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Good post Emma and I love your positive attitude! Your first book may not have sold but it is about soldiering on; that is what makes one successful :-) Good luck with Acid, which will sell, and see you at the Book Festival.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jane! See you there. :)

      Delete