Here’s my writing journey – and it applies to all forms I’ve written in: short stories, screenplays, and novels.
But I’ll use novels as the model.
I’ll write a novel, revise, submit. Rejection.
I’ll submit again. Rejection.
And again. Rejection.
I’ll revise again and again and again.
Submit elsewhere. Rejection.
Submit all around. I might get a nibble here, a request for the whole manuscript, or a glowing personalized rejection, but a rejection all the same.
Then, after getting over the initial frustration and wanting to quit writing, I’ll start a new book, and vow that this one will be different.
This book will be THE ONE.
This will be better than anything I’ve ever written before, and it will wow and engage audiences in a way that only THE ONE book can.
This will be the start of something magnificent.
Write the book. Finish it.
Repeat the above.
Over and over.
Question self-worth over and over.
Question ability over and over.
That’s the submission process. There might be variations on when I revise and when I submit again, but it amounts to the same cycle.
In 2012, while I was rehabbing my broken leg, I swore to myself I was going to write something where I held nothing back. I wouldn’t censor myself – I wouldn’t hold back on emotional scenes, I wouldn’t write around sex scenes, I wouldn’t restrict myself in any way.
That book was Just Another Week in Suburbia, and while I had some encouraging rejections – publishers telling me they really liked it but didn’t feel they’d be able to sell it (in publishing, marketability is everything) – it wasn’t accepted and published until 2017.
That invoked a whole new strata of worries.
Would it sell?
Would critics like it?
Would readers like it?
Then there were subdivisions in each category.
I’m old enough and been around long enough to weather most negativity, although there’s one critic whose head I would like to punch in because I know he’s just a bully (and have heard horror stories from lots of other writers that substantiate I’m not being sensitive, and others feel similarly about him).
But, dickheads aside, the ultimate metric is sales.
And that book did what so, so many books do: underperform.
People have this misconception that publication leads to fame and riches. For most, it doesn’t. Most are still working normal jobs of some sort. The Stephen Kings and JK Rowlings are rare. It’s like wanting to become an actor. Or musician. The percentage who are successful are slim.
But still, the dream abides, because we all have ego.
And writing’s about passion. You have to be passionate about wanting to do it – so passionate that it overloads and eliminates all logic, all pragmatism, and everything else in your life but the desire to write.
So, like when I was trying to get published, it was a case of loading up and telling myself to go again.
Now THE ONE that was meant to be THE ONE is no longer THE ONE.
That’s become THE DONE.
Now the next one will be THE ONE.
August Falling, which followed Just Another Week in Suburbia, is actually my favourite novel (although I read it again recently and identified areas I could improve it and layer it further). It was meant to satirize the romcom genre while actually being a coming-of-age story, which some reviewers got. Others just took it as straight romcom, which was never meant to be the case.
It didn’t matter anyway because it endured a similar outcome.
So, load up, again.
Telling myself that the next one will be the one.
And then the next one.
And so on.
Although just recently, I recognized the futility of the belief, the absurdity of the hope, and the impossibility of the expectation.
Passion meets oblivion.
Yet here I am.
At the sacrifice of everything else.
Like a kamikaze who survives the crash but vows to give it just one more shot.