Judith Baker

While recently tidying up my emails, sorting out the pending submissions, and separating them from the all too frequent stack of rejections that grows exponentially by the day, I stumbled across the missive that had set my spirit soaring.

The email I thought I would never receive finally came – a request for the remainder of my manuscript. I remember the day well: my heart flapping around my chest like a caged bird, fingers trembling as I made the final adjustments to my novel and tentatively submitted it.

But no sooner had it disappeared out of my grasp than I wanted it back. The spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and incongruous situations jumped out at me as I read it again, horrified at my own stupidity and lack of patience when editing and submitting.

I had made the grave error that writers have been guilty of at one time or another, being too over eager to submit before the final all important editing was done.

I had spent hours and hours trawling the internet looking for suitable agents and publishers when my time and energy would have been better spent putting the finishing touches to my book.

I received the expected rejection letter a few months later with some helpful words from an obviously overworked editor who was kind and approachable.

Although anticipated, the inevitable rejection was still more than a mite disheartening, feeling that I had blown my only chance to finally getting my work published.

I was told that although they liked my novel, they didn’t love it. I reread my book and understood their sentiments completely. Apart from the silly mistakes, I had been too blinded by excitement to see there were other more important factors amiss: the lifeless flat characters didn’t gel with one another and there was a lack of pace. It didn't put me off writing but it did dent my confidence enormously.

I have become more hardened to it now and every time I see an email pop up, I steel myself for that all too familiar rejection.

I wrote another novel in a completely different genre and with hindsight I can see that I had rushed that one as well. That too was rejected. One particular agent wrote a full page on why he rejected it. He claimed that although he could see the imagination at work, he wasn't convinced enough by my writing to persuade publishers to take me on. He stated an interesting and rather disheartening statistic.

Most editors see approximately 30 books a week but only take on 2 to 3 new novelists a year.

They claim that the entry level for debut writers is now 'special' and that simply 'really good' is no longer enough to get into print. He was kind and thorough and it has given me a greater insight into the savagely competitive world of publishing. Literary agents simply have to be behind a book 100% in order to accept it.

I am now putting the finishing touches to my next book. And therein lies the rub. It's enormously difficult to be subjective with your own work. I find it hard to do what I know I should do i.e. put some space between me and my novel, terrified somebody will get in before me with a similar idea and steal my thunder.

But experience has taught me to be more patient and wait before submitting. It is better to put the manuscript away for a few weeks or have a change of scenery to clear your head of the clutter that builds when writing, anything to stop you from submitting before you have a chance to look at your story with a fresh pair of eyes.

Rejections still flood in from other stories I submitted many moons ago and no longer even have an interest it. I’ve learnt to be as harsh with myself as many of the agents and publishers are with me and have taken advice from one particular editor who claimed that:

If a manuscript is rejected from more than twenty agencies, then it probably needs rewriting.

The rejections have proved to be a huge learning curve that will hopefully shape my writing into something that one day, agents and publishers will want to put into print.

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