The hardest thing about being a novelist is learning that your first novel will probably be shit.
So will the second.
By the third, you might have learned a trick or two. You’ve read tons more books since the first and you have a new respect for pacing. The first novel gave you more confidence knocks than you ever thought you could handle, and by the second novel, you’ve finally realised that you really, really aren’t that special little snowflake. Going unpublished is something that DOES happen to you – not just everyone else. By the third, you realise that you’re writing because you love writing, and no matter what happens, that IS precious to you.
Even if it hurts to go unpublished yet again.
This road is long and you’re walking it with everyone else, pulling your manuscripts along in a little kiddy cart behind you. Some peoples’ piles are higher than yours. For others, their wheels are wobbling off. Some people have to keep re-attaching the handle because it just keeps slipping and the bolt never did fit properly.
Others are sick of dragging the cart around, so they think ‘Fuck this shit!’ and they flat-out boot it into a ravine and storm off without it. They’re going to focus on their day job because at least it pays.
I am on my seventh manuscript.
That’s not including the countless short stories I’ve written over the years since I decided, at age 18, that I was going to take this writing malarkey seriously. I sold a good few short stories to some terrible markets, for basically pennies, and most of those places ended up closing down on account of them being shite, and my stories being shite, and it all just being shite, really.
But later, I made some professional sales. I sold a short story to Mischief Books, a Harper Collins imprint, and was paid £75. For a 2,000 – 3,000 word short story, that wasn’t too bad.
But I wanted to be a novelist. I still do. And you know what? I am. I’m just unpublished so far, and that is NORMAL. I just have my very own slush pile to work through, and I am a very, very busy woman.
The problem with the slush pile is that you’ve got this backlog of work, which you’ll recall as being terrible one day and amazing on another. You’ll read snippets and burst with pride. You’ll read other snippets and wonder what the heck you were on about.
But mostly, you’ll still burst with pride. I do, and that’s what’s most confusing – because you’re forever left with this question in your mind: why not me?
There is never, ever any way of telling if you’re actually good at this stuff. There just isn’t. You can read as many novels as you like, and coo over Margaret Atwood and even accept that you’ll never, ever hold a candle to her – but it’ll never reveal a single thing about yourself and your ability as a writer.
You have a slush pile, but you are no agent. You’re just a writer. You can’t see between the lines like they do.
The worst part, of course, is ALWAYS the editing.
Right now, I’m working through my three YA novels (two of the others are the terrible first two novels; the third an adult Gothic horror; the fourth a novella) and it’s like staring at a mile-high junk yard. Somewhere inside it are all the parts to build a Ferrari – except I don’t know what a Ferrari looks like under the bonnet, and I don’t know how the heck to build one anyway.
Doesn’t stop me wanting to drive one though, ’cause y’know…I reckon I’d look good in it.
That is a terrible, rubbish, awful analogy. I can’t even drive.
OH Christ, you get the picture. Use your imagination – you’re an author, aren’t you?! AREN’T YOU?!