Friday, 8 November 2013

Achievement Points

This is a blog that’s waited in the wings for a few weeks, because I wanted to post it as a follow-up to Benjamin Scott’s Ten Top Tips to Finding an Agent. Benjamin’s idea of treating rejections positively as “badges of honour” really chimed with me when he first told me about it. I decided to expand his concept to come up with a system that I could use to reward myself for putting my work “out there.”

I tried to analyse where I feel the most negative effect during the writing and publishing process, and realised that it’s always around feedback. When I send something out, I’m desperate for that person to read it as soon as possible and get back to me. But when they do eventually get back to me, I tend to find myself wishing that they’d left it for just another day. As hard as I try to read the whole message and see the good in the response, I will inevitably focus on the “areas for improvement.” Paradoxically, the few times I have received messages of unfettered praise, I’ve viewed them suspiciously, as though the person couldn’t be a very good judge of the book if they couldn’t find any problems with it.

To counteract this tendency, I introduce you to the Achievement Points system. Using this, I will earn points for each book as follows:
  • 1 point each time I receive feedback on a partial submission (be that a rejection or a request for a full MS) from an agent or editor
  • 1 point each time I receive feedback on a full manuscript from someone outside of publishing (family, friends, colleagues)
  • 3 points each time I receive feedback on a full submission from an agent or editor
What’s nice about this is that acceptance and rejection are treated equally – they’re both an achievement that builds my experience in trying to get published.

Here’s where I am with my current book:
  • 6 rejections on a partial from agents = 6 points
  • 6 people who’ve read and fed back on the full manuscript (three writers, my wife and two daughters) = 6 points
  • Total = 12 points
At ten points, I rewarded myself with a new smartphone. I’ve still not quite decided what will happen at fifteen points, or if I should get a special bonus for the agent who sent me a particularly disheartening email this week.

I’m sure you can see how this system could be extended. Perhaps I should be awarding myself Achievement Points every time I finish a draft of a book, or take it to a critique meeting? For people earlier in the process, the targets could be gentler – finishing a chapter perhaps, or attending a writing workshop. Published writers could give themselves points for every school event or Amazon review (no matter how many stars it has).

Do please chime in with your ideas on this and similar systems you might already be using. Can we turn the stigma of rejection around to enable us to see just how far we’ve already come in our writing journey? That would be an achievement in itself.



  1. Hi Nick, Nice idea. I had two particularly bad rejections, both at about 5pm on a Friday (nice timing there agents) on a full manuscript and after months of waiting. I was so gutted I treated myself to a takeaway curry, a few beers and a kindle download :)

    Someone I know has written several books but never sent them to an agent or even shown them to friends as she is so worried about rejection. It's certainly tough when it comes but rewarding yourself for trying and being persistent is a good way to soften the inevitable blows.

  2. I like your style Nick. If we don't have these stories of rejection, what is there to talk about at festivals etc later on in one's career?

  3. Ironically, I had a rejection just after I posted this! So that makes 13 points (not unlucky thirteen, I hope).