Friday, 14 June 2013

Waiting and Learning

Kathy Evans's burst of unpublished author insecurity this week led me to reflect on where I was in the process and how I felt.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.

Nick.

8 comments:

  1. You total star Nick Cross. That is all.

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  2. Hi Nick, lovely reflective post there and I do hope your optimism is rewarded soon! You too Kathy!! x

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  3. There seems to be a real focus on pushing debuts at the moment, maybe there always has been. I think if you're prepared for your publication moment when it comes, you've got a much greater chance of sustaining a writing career, which is the hard part. Especially if you've met lots of booksellers and librarians, who will be rooting for your book.

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  4. Your post sounds suspiciously like the conversations I've been having with both Kathy and Bekki this week. Must be something in the air!
    I do think your line " I still want to be published, but I no longer need to be – which is an important mental shift for me" is one of the most critical shifts any writer can make - otherwise we go bonkers. Or rather, more bonkers than we already are.

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  5. Lesley Johnson14 June 2013 at 17:02

    As a very new writer, just taking my first faltering footsteps on the literature ladder (I know, perhaps too much alliteration there :D)I really appreciate reading about authors who are 'nearly there', as well as those who are 'already there'. Thank you Nick, for your words of wisdom, I will keep them in my head throughout...of wanting to be published but no longer needing to be. A long way for me to go yet, but I find everything said by all of you very inspiring. From one, who is for now, 'nowhere near there' and already bonkers :)

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  6. Tim Collins makes a very good point about being prepared for success. Everything you are doing now, including the conversations you are having with published authors, is building up skills, confidence and knowledge for later. You'll be ready to hit the ground running or, if the new book is about zombies, shambling.

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  7. 'Nearly there' - sometimes I feel as if I've been following directions from a satnav which has sent me on a very circuitous route ... with 'Where are we now?' by David Bowie playing in the background ...

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  8. Love this post. I feel am now approaching 'nearly there' status, making me, of course, 'nearly nearly there'!

    I am actually terrified of the time, if it ever comes, when I get a publishing deal, as I worry about how I'd cope with the pressure of having a deadline for the second book. So I'm actually quite pleased that nowadays you don't get taken on unless you are really, really, really, really ready. I figure the more confident I am in my writing when (if) I get a contract, the better.

    I think the key thing is to just continue working on being a better and better writer.

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