Yeah, I know, what a terrible depressing place to start. But there are
enough worthy texts that instruct you about where to use a semi-colon
or how to approach publishers. Whereas, anyone intending to submit work
for publication had better ensure theyve taken the very first
step and psychologically prepared themselves for rejection. Because
it happens to almost everyone - its happened to every writer I
know. And it happens whatever their chosen form: novels, stories, poems,
articles... They come trotting back in that envelope you recognise instantly
because you addressed it yourself. Your first novel hasnt been
hailed as the new Ulysses; they havent even compared you to Irvine
Welsh. You havent won that new-writing competition dont
even appear in the highly-commended top fifty. Sorry, but Coal &
Coal Bunkers Magazine cant use your witty Smokeless Fool
Writing is not for the faint-hearted or thin-skinned.
A seasoned scribe once advised me not to expect to make a living at
the craft. Dinnae gi up the fucking day job, pal,
was his actual turn of phrase. Said writer, a feisty Glaswegian male,
earned his crust by penning in the style and under the name of a long
dead female romantic novelist, selling in modest numbers to a limited
audience and attracting absolutely no critical attention. But even this
dubious estate, he advised, was more than I should ever even dream of
aspiring to. Ah but, I was callow and didnt heed the wise old
mage. I am talented, I thought, I am original, I am a real novelist:
never will I sink so low as you. That was before ten years of rejection
letters took their toll. Recently, I drafted an ad for the situations-wanted
columns: Novelist for hire; more than willing to work as an anonymous
hack for peanuts; any genre sycophantically accepted.
And to think I once set myself the target of winning the Booker Prize.
Heres a genuine Catch 22. In the main certainly in the
mainstream, publishers only consider work submitted via an agent. Typically
though, agents will only consider taking on a published writer as a
client. Ah, you may be thinking, but what about those newcomers who
do get published: talent will out. Very faintly possible. But Im
willing to bet that for every one who gets that far another god-know-how-many
- just as talented - have perished in despondancy or thrown away their
quills and decided to reclaim real lives.
Trends: Sally Plotter and the Philosophers Gallstone or
Bridget Clones Dairy are not good ideas if you want to avoid rejection.
Actually, perhaps they are. Because you never know. Get one popular
pseudo-science book becoming a best-seller and youll get a whole
chemistry set. But beware, youll never write Hotzingers
Red-hot Helium Hypothesis in time: the bubble will burst. Write about
what you know, the rejection letter will read. So, youll write
about the trials of being a writer. Nothing doing, the next letter reads,
there are far too many books about writers! Note, though, that such
subject matter is still good enough to win the my Booker
I have a performance piece, puningly entitled Bleeding between the lines.
Originally, it focussed on poets perhaps the most rejected of
us all; it goes with the turf, maybe even helps to generate the requisite
melancholic outpourings, eventual alcoholism and suicide. (More people
write poetry than read it.) Bleeding is readily adapted so that any
rejected writer can learn to understand what a publisher is really saying
in their stock response:
Dear Mr/Mrs/Miss (insert own name)
Thank you for sending me your work
What is this pile of crap?
but I'm afraid we are returning it to you.
It soils my desk. as it is not suitable for publication with us at this
Never, ever, ever!
We have been receiving many fine manuscripts
from authors who are already on our lists
Chaps I went up to Uni with, actually.
and we are booked up for many months in advance for publication
So do not try this load of bollocks on me again!
Thank you for thinking of us
Now forget it.
and good luck with your search for a publisher
Not a cats chance, you feeb!
Richard Wise (Editor)
Clever Dick (and I've got the job to prove it)
Me, bitter and cynical? Youd better believe it. But I still have
self-belief and, I hope, the ability to judge my own work. I do not
burn down publishers offices or kidnap and torture their pets,
though reasonably enough I have considered such retaliatory
measures. Rejection may have withered me, but it hasnt yet buried
me. How to survive it? In Peanuts, Snoopy deals with a rejection letter
by trashing the mailbox. This, Im sure, is as good an approach
© Kelvin Mason 2000
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