After I completed my first draft of The Chimney Rabbit and the Underground Mice, I took a break from writing for a little while. I’d gone straight from finishing The Chimney Rabbit into editing it, then straight into writing the sequel, and while working like that does have some benefit in the momentum it generates, it’s still pretty exhausting when you’re doing it on top of a full-time 40-hour-a-week job.
I intended to get back into working on my writing at the end of last week, but a combination of a nasty cold and some really rather upsetting family news didn’t leave me in the right state of mind, so I extended my hiatus for a little longer.
Earlier this week, though, I decided that I’d be able to find excuses for not writing indefinitely, so I fired up Scrivener and started an edit of the first three chapters of The Chimney Rabbit.
These three chapters form the core of the majority of submissions that I’m making to agents – there’s usually a covering letter and a synopsis, too, but the bulk of the submission is the 3-chapter, 10,000-word start of the novel. This is the part that has to grab the attention of the agent – it’s no good you having a story that builds to a thrilling denouement if no-one is interested in reading past the first three chapters.
So far, no-one’s been interested in what I have to say. But as I was polishing those chapters this week, I came more and more to the conclusion that I’m happy with what I’ve written. OK, maybe “happy” isn’t the right word – it could always do with a little bit more polish, or a tweak here and there, and if you gave me a thousand years to work on it, I’d probably still be making changes around year 999. But still, I think that I’ve managed to write the story that I set out to write. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to pander to the tastes of agents and publishers. I’m not writing for them – I’m writing for myself. If I were somehow to come across the magic formula for a children’s book that would make it irresistible to agents up and down the land, I wouldn’t write it.
The Chimney Rabbit is my story, and contains my characters, and while I would dearly love for it to be read widely, if no agent or publisher is interested, then so be it. At least I’ve written the story I wanted to write.
Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.
– Andy Warhol