Now speaking of books and stories-as-children I’m the old woman who lived in a shoe (well, silver-bearded old lady living in a miner’s boot) with somewhere between 30-40 out and I find myself doing something like the famous “You -yes you – you live here. I KNOW you’re one of mine. I’ll find out just what your name is again eventually,” about some of my stories. OK so maybe not quite that vague, or that many, but I find readers who just read RATS BATS and VATS expect me to remember the precise details of a dialogue I wrote 10 years back… interesting delusions they have about my memory! Hells teeth, my mind is an anti-computer collating vast amounts of good data and turning it into chaos, not the other way around.
But that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten just how hard it is to send your beloved manuscript out there (it actually gets harder, not easier, because unless you’re that rarer than diamonds author who sold for vast sums off that first submission you know that there is a good chance it’ll bounce back with a rejection that really doesn’t suit your present needs. I’ve done it with a huge number of proposals and stories. I have seventy-four rejection slips in my top drawer.)
That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do it, be it ever so hard.
My boys have just gone back to Uni, and them going hurts. I miss them. I worry about them. I would also be insane not to help them to go. To do go off into a life where I probably won’t see them often. They’re my sons, and I want the best for them. That means letting them go out there, letting them get into trouble, accepting that they may come home with their tail between their legs, needing succour, and yes, sometimes listening to unpalatable comments about them… and learning from that. A book or a story isn’t a child… really. Nothing like as important in final analysis (although listening to the outraged squeals when someone dares to not love the little authorial oeuver you might think otherwise), but the same kind of rules apply to making it a success. (You know: ‘beat the keyboard to sleep with a broken bottle and make it get up from the family home in the middle of the road, three hours before it goes to bed, lick the Encycloepeadia Britannica clean of ink with tongue and then go and work seventy hours a day down pit – we writers ‘ad it tough – but you tell the young authors of today and they won’t believe yer’ – with apologies to Monty Python) or give it the best prep you can and send on to the best place to go further that you can… and prepare for that wholly inadequate rejection.
And one day it won’t come.
Your story will be out there making it’s way in the world. But it can only do that if:
1)You keep sending it out. Really, it’ll never get published from you hard-drive. And trust me, it’s NOT going to be stolen. (and even if this wildly improbable thing happened is that worse than it sitting on your hard-drive or in your story trunk, rotting?)
2) If when you get that rejection or piece of advice from a fellow writer… you curl into a defensive ball and refuse to accept that it wasn’t perfect (even for their needs/kneads). Sometimes, they are idiots. Yep. Happens all the time. Books are rejected and go on to become bestsellers with someone else. And sometimes they’re NOT wrong. Sometimes the book is fruther edited and polished by the author… and sells. Be dispassionate and sensible. It’s weird but it works ;-).
And sometimes it doesn’t sell. Ever. (shrug) The best way forward is to write the next, and send it out again (and while you wait, write the next), until you’re sure it doesn’t have a home to go to. Because… well if you have one story you’ve obsessed about and tried to sell for 20 years… when the dam bursts there is no weight of manuscripts to sell. Otherwise, when the dam bursts finally on that 23rd manuscript… you might find a great future for all the other 22.
OK so who is sitting on those ‘children’ polishing them that little more more before letting them out? And who got really shirty at a vaguely harsh comment? And who wrote a snotty comment back to the rejector?
Don’t all shout at once 😉