So, you write your book. In fact I wrote my first a considerable amount of time ago, while at school, and it was, frankly, not up to snuff. This is not something you tell a teenager who has just come into that idealistic and self-righteous phase that breeds brief generations of hippies, Marxists and environmentalists, whose ideas, fiercely-held and burning like the sun, blossom, bloom and die in the course of a few years, from absolute conviction to weary cynicism in a brief passage through the world’s mill (1). Anyway, it was probably prose like this that caused the problem. It was submitted, in due course, to a number of publishers. Few of them bothered much to reply, and the replies were oddly unencouraging.
Was he bitter, this youth? Was he demoralised? Did he curse gods and men over the blindness of editors? Well, yes, he did, but then you do. Indeed, after the youth has sloughed from the man, one still does (and, like many writers and would-be writers, I’ve had enough of those polite, terse little returns from various quarters to wallpaper the Berlin Wall twice over.) It is hard to write five hundred pages of glorious war, love, tragedy and the death of nations, and have it returned to you with a two-sentence compliments slip that reads:
- We didn’t like it
- We didn’t read it
- We didn’t read it, but we wouldn’t have liked it if we had
- But better luck next time
As though, with that rejection from any given publishing house or agency, a new rank of people just desperate to publish the fresh work of obscure and unknown fiction writers steps into the breach, fielding gloves on, to catch whatever you choose to throw at them.
So you soldier on. In every talk given by every author there is amongst the audience at least one not-yet-an-author who wants to know the secret. There may be a secret. It may involve sleeping with people or being born of their lineage, frankly. Otherwise, there is only perseverance, and no guarantees. By the time I got where I got, which is something I will, I promise, eventually get round to getting round to, I had written a fair old number of books, each arguably better than the previous one (3), and clawed my way into a state of at least reasonable publishability.
to be continued…
(1) Like Adams’ electric monk, in the first Dirk Gently book. Whilst my miniscule recommendation is unlikely to make a dent in the face of the enormous and well-deserved reputation that Adams amassed (2), and continues to amass posthumously, nonetheless, if you haven’t read Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency then you really should.
(2): Like the fleets of the G'Gugvuntts and Vl'hurgs in fact, in their tiny, doomed fight against earth and/or a small dog. Adams does stick with you.
(3): Or I always argued that they were, anyway. And yes, that's not Adams but Pratchett.