Saturday, 2 April 2016

March ended on a low note

I have a few issues when it comes to confidence; at least as regards my writing. I'm pretty good in my day job. In the office I can make decisions quickly and with great belief in my abilities. It doesn't translate to my writing. In this endeavour I feel a lot more exposed and a lot less sure of myself.

It's why this week has mostly been a washout writing wise. I did write a scene on Tuesday evening but when I came to the document today I reread it, highlighted the lot and hit the delete key. It just wasn't any good.

The reason for it is an email I received for a submission of my alternate Earth science fiction novel Against the Fall of Empire. I submitted it to a number of agencies last year and received a number of rejections, mostly pro forma style. I chalked these up to par for the course for a wannabe writer and carried on.

Then the miracle happened and I received an email that was different. Admittedly it was still a rejection but it contained a personal response. In it the agent I had contacted said how she liked my writing, the idea for the story and the characters. I'd just chosen a sub genre that wasn't selling at the moment. So even though it was a no, it was a positive no.

So I carried on and worked through a number of further rejections and then one or two acceptances. Yes I have had offers of publication. I wasn't able to accept them unfortunately due a variety of factors but it was nice to get them.

Then on Tuesday the agent who had been the first to respond positively to me sent me an email. Last August I sent in my original submission and within a month received a request for the full manuscript. I sent it off immediately and went back to waiting. By end of 2015 the period she quoted on the website for a response had expired and I chalked it up to a NO. Never mind - on we go.

This week though, more than three months later I received an email. In it she was very gracious and very apologetic for the time it had taken to review my manuscript and then went on to reject it. Not a problem in and of itself except she went further than a pro forma and in a way that threw me.

She said one thing that was nice, describing it as having an interesting premise/ Good start. Then it went a bit downhill. The judgment was it would require a lot of editing and that she didn't love it enough to commit the time to it. I headed off and gave it a bit of a reread.

Now I have been a science fiction reader for more than four decades. I have no idea how many sf books I've read in that time. I know at one point it was three or four a week (I had more time back then and was concentrating on the 1950s/1960s books which are usually around 150 pages each) so it could be quite a few. I know at one point I got hold of a book of the 100 best sf novels of the 20th Century and then proceeded to read all of them - every single one.

So I am a reader so I tried reading my novel as a reader and not as its author. It's not an easy job but I gave it a go. It had been a few months since I last though about the story so I thought I might have a chance at realising what she meant. Only I didn't.

I couldn't see anything majorly wrong with it. Okay, there were a couple of things I was tempting to go fix but nothing huge. Nothing that would require "a lot of editing". I just don't know what she would mean by this. I thought it was okay. My kind of story (it would be; I wrote it) and easy to read.

That got me worried. Does that mean I can't see the problems with it? And if I can't see the problems with that novel does it mean I will be just as blind with any others I write? Which, with my overthinking brain and tendencies to negativity, started a bit of a spiral and kept me from writing completely for the past few days.

It was likely to continue for longer except that I forced myself to get back to it tonight. It's been a struggle but I have managed to get three new scenes added totally 1613 words. I am hoping to go back to it once I've finished this posting.

I'm only about 2,000 words from done on this story. It should be finished tomorrow. And that's when the real problem will occur. You see I think I managed to force my way back into this because I've spent the last two months living this story. I know the characters and like them. And I'm writing an epilogue really as all the action is done and dusted. But will I have the courage to open a new document; see that blank page and began typing?

I make it sound as though I'm a complete no hoper. After all it's nothing arduous? I have a comfy life and here I am moaning about my hobby. Let me assure you this is not the case.

Were I to never write another word of fiction I would still be happy. I would simply find another diversion to spend my spare time. I'm not the sort to just sit and vegetate. I might try learning a new language (spoken or computer). I might go back to doing some trading of antiques and collectables - I'm quite good at that.

But I wanted to hold a book that I had written. I have a collection of some 16,000 books. I've been hunting them down seriously since I was nine. I've told the story of my first Asimov a hundred times and more but in a nutshell...

 - wet family holiday in Great Yarmouth
 - sheltering from the rain in a newsagent kiosk on the seafront
 - saw a think paperback in a carousel and liked the cover
 - picked it up and read the back cover
 - persuaded my mother I wanted to read it and wasn't just buying it because I was bored (due to weather)
 - read the four stories in the book and wanted more
 - spent four decades buying and reading more and more

So after all this time I want to have one of my books (hopefully many, many more) on the shelves alongside the books by Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Simak, Robert Charles Wilson, Mike Resnick, Stephen King, Eric Frank Russell, Robert Silverberg (imagine list goes on and on) and of course Edmund Cooper and Lester del Rey from where I chose my pen name.

I still want this. I just hope I have the determination to keep going and make it happen.

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