Kathy Evans's burst of unpublished author insecurity this week led me to reflect on where I was in the process and how I felt. Kathy and I have been in the trenches for quite a while, waiting for the call-up to publishing glory – we even shared a blog post at the end of 2011 as writers who were "Almost There". We're still just as Almost There as we were back then and I was briefly tempted to title this post "The Waiting Room of the Damned"! But that would be an overly negative assessment that doesn't entirely reflect how I feel about things.
In many ways, the state of being Almost There is an agonising one – you've won approval for your writing, perhaps signed with an agent, and yet the publishing part stubbornly refuses to happen. You know that your work is publishable and editors love it, but somehow it never goes to acquisitions, or worse, it gets there and is turned down. To build your hopes up so far and then have them crushed is truly awful, especially if you don't have the luxury of rival publishers waiting in the wings to pick up your book. It can be like climbing almost to the top of Everest and discovering a sign that says "Summit Closed for Essential Repairs".
And yet, people do still sneak through. I look to Jackie Marchant or Teri Terry, who sat in the waiting room for far longer than me before they passed on to considerable success. That time you spend as an Almost There can be the making of you, allowing you to hone your skills, make contacts and discover the right voice for yourself and for your audience. I find myself harking back to a blog post Teri wrote in 2010, about the realisation that who she was as a person was getting in the way of the books she was trying to write. By taking her own personality and background into account, Teri was able to find publication with the incredibly successful Slated trilogy. Now perhaps, she was also lucky with her timing in terms of catching the dystopian wave before it crashed, but when I see the plaudits and awards that Teri is gathering (from real live teenage readers), I feel greatly encouraged.
Perhaps my current hopeful state of mind is because I've got something new I'm excited about, a book that's yet to be tainted by rejection. Or maybe it's because I've finally reached the "better place" I've been hoping to find for the last three years. I still want to be published, but I no longer need to be – which is an important mental shift for me. Will this new and improved mental attitude have any effect on my chances of publication? Probably not. But if I can stay feeling like this, then waiting (and learning) doesn't seem like the worst thing in the world anymore.