A year of failures

On 13th January, 2013, I sent a sample of my first completed novel, The Chimney Rabbit, to an agent for the first time. Today, just over a year later, my third novel, Tales of the Ancient Rabbits, failed to make the longlist for the Chicken House competition.

I’ve sent my work out 34 times – almost all to agents, apart from one publisher and one competition – and to date I’ve been rejected 28 times and received no response 6 times. If you add those up, you’ll see that over the course of a year I’ve had a 100% failure rate.

I almost had… well, not a foot in the door, or even a toe, but maybe a toenail in the door when one of the agents to whom I sent a sample of The Chimney Rabbit actually asked to see the full manuscript. That’s right – I’ve had only one request for a full manuscript. She ended up rejecting me, but did provide some useful feedback. What’s perhaps most disappointing was when I sent Tales of the Ancient Rabbits to this agent, having listened to the reasons that she gave for not taking on my first book (length and pacing), she didn’t even want to see the full manuscript, but rejected me on the basis of the first two chapters. So that seems to suggest that after a year of hammering out draft after draft and revision after revision and book after book and submission after submission, instead of improving (as you might expect) I’ve actually got worse.

It’s very dispiriting, to say the least.

It’s all taking the shine off actually writing. I think the problem is that I’ve used the prospect of getting published as an incentive for sitting down, hammering out the words even when I didn’t feel like it, and doing the less fun parts like editing and revising. If I hadn’t made the decision that I wanted to get my books published, I might never have completed The Chimney Rabbit, and it would have joined all my other uncompleted novels from several decades of just mucking about pretending to be a writer.

It’s distinctly possible that I don’t have any talent. That my writing is no more than anyone with a decent grasp of spelling and grammar could produce. That I’m literate but not literary. I hope not. But the more I get rejected, the more I fear that this might be the case. Every time I get a rejection my motivation suffers.

I think it’s time I found another source of motivation, because it’s quite clear that getting an agent, never mind getting published, is highly unlikely any time soon. I think it’s time I forgot about the grind of submissions and drafts and just concentrated on the writing.

So, good-bye, then, Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. Time to unfollow all the literary agents on Twitter. Time to archive my submissions spreadsheet.

Time to slink back into the shadows and write for myself.


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