My next outing came in the form of a romance idea for a certain well known publisher. This time I did my research, (in as much as you could in the days without the world at your fingertips as we have now.) I studied the format and gave it my best shot and knew I was on to a winner. How could I possibly fail? Having done the hard graff required in producing the first three chapters on my word processor, I submitted.
Several weeks of letter box surveillance later...my manuscript plopped back on the mat.
Through intervening years, children arrived. I continued to write in as much as I kept a journal, observed the world around me and wrote books in my head. I joined book clubs advertised in Sunday magazines and began reading more than I was writing. I subscribed to writing magazines and at first devoured them as soon as they appeared, making diligent notes and marking competitions closing dates that I never quite got around to entering. The dream was easier than the reality. Before long, the magazines began to pile up until I accepted there was no way I was ever going to get through them let alone write anything worthy. Many of them ended up in recycling before the cellophane wrapper had even been taken off. I cancelled the subscriptions, re-instated and cancelled again repeatedly as time went on and my list of priorities changed.
Except for one.
I kept one subscription going because I could not bear the thought of never reading about writing again.
In 2008 I had another lease of creative life and started this blog. It seemed incredible that writing could be so instant and accessible via the mere push of a button. Some might argue this has not been a totally good thing and I've certainly written my fair share of drivel but at last I was writing in the public domain. I found other like-minded people to connect with and yet again the dream was re-ignited. I began to learn the craft but only in as much as it related to creating blog posts. Beyond this my output was pretty lame but at least I was writing and it was being read by a small group of online acquaintances plus the odd passer-by.
My confidence grew and I submitted a book review. Looking back, I'm pretty sure this particular competition didn't attract many people because mine was chosen for publication. The prize was a £10 Book Token. Giddy with excitement from my overnight success I entered a short story competition convinced it was a no-brainer as far as the organisers were concerned.
(Oh be quiet!)
A year or so later once I'd got over that particular disappointment, I decided to cut out the middle man and write a script instead. Someone had commented on the blog that my talents were better suited as a dramatist so off I trotted to invest in Final Draft software. Anybody could write a book but if you wanted fame and fortune, writing for film and television was the place to be. I sweated, starved and neglected the family in the name of creativity and produced a full length script in time for a major competition. Even my husband was impressed. There could be no doubt now, my future as a professional writer was secure.
(I'm glad you find this amusing but I'm trying impart years of hard earned wisdom here.)
Yet again I wasted time licking my wounds before returning to the blog. Here at least I was master of my own words and anyway - what did it matter? I enjoyed writing with or without an audience. (Denial is a wonderful defence.) 'How to...' books gradually found their way to the back of the bookcase and I settled for my cosy corner of the virtual planet. With the exception of a final hoorah in the shape of another short story competition, I pretty much withdrew to write the occasional blog post.
Life went on in this pedestrian way for some time...Until last year.
Life threw a curve ball and everything changed. In the midst of chaos I turned to the blog and the internet for comfort and once again sought the company of other writers as a distraction. I engaged, made friends, took notice and realised this time was different. This time I was fully awake to learning the craft, setting aside everything I thought I knew in favour of beginning again. This time I was determined to get it right.
This year I began to submit work on a regular basis. I finally understood that no matter how much effort, dreaming and swooning I put into a blog post, no more than a hand full of people were going to see it. If you want your work to be noticed, the simple rule is you have to put it and yourself out there on the understanding that much if not all is going to come back. I have a list of deadlines in my hardback notebook which are gradually being ticked off. I have surprised myself because these days I don't always remember what it is I'm supposed to be doing but for some reason I remember to do what is on this list.
Since January I've had two rejections and I'm fully expecting more. With every rejection comes a deeper sense of being part of a world I have been seeking all these years. One day the response will be favourable and a piece I have written will be accepted. I am willing to be patient. I am willing to learn from past mistakes. More importantly, I am willing to submit! submit! submit! because I know without a shadow of doubt, there is another Book Token out there with my name on it.
The moral of my story is quite simple and I wish it had not taken me so long to grasp but there we are.
There are no short cuts.
If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well.
Learn your craft.
Read. Read. Read. No excuses - None.
Submit your work.
Be patient with yourself.
Have fun and enjoy the journey.
Do your best.
When a rejection arrives in the post or inbox, (which it will if you're doing your job correctly), smile. You are a writer!