Okay, the first rejection was expected; the second is disappointing, the third, worrying; the twenty-third – it’s really starting to grate.
Part of the problem is that new authors have a slightly romanticised view of the literary agent: a chain-smoking Barry Humphries clone who’ll tout their slab of literary genius to the furthest corners of London and secure that first multi-million pound advance.
The publishers see the agent somewhat differently. To them, he provides saleable talent and shields them from everything else. And that is the view you should take as a new author; the literary agent is there to filter out dross.
As I said previously, after the twenty-third rejection the new author can take one of two stances:
- They are fools! They are blind and ignorant fools!
- Or, more usefully – Maybe I’m writing stuff they don’t like.
Going with number two doesn’t necessarily mean that the novel is beyond help (remember that agents rarely give feedback), but before spending anymore time on it, you need to find out if what you have written just needs more work, or should be taken out back and shot.
So here’s the next question:
Who told you that the book was good?
Was it family? Friends, maybe? There’s nothing wrong with letting those close to you read the novel, but remember, above all else, their job is to love and support you. They will lie (and they will lie convincingly) to spare your feelings. And to be honest, if you’ve ever told a friend they look good in leather trousers then clearly you’re prepared to do the same.
This is where writing groups come in (improving your work, not your dress sense), and no new writer should be without one. If you live in a town big enough for a bus service, then somewhere nearby is a group ready to eviscerate every substandard piece you put in front of them. And this is a good thing because it’ll make your more self-critical and more prepared to cut swathes from your manuscript which simply don’t work. And the praise, that’s all good too, especially if you’re nursing a bruised ego after rejection number twenty-three.
And if, for example, you write and love science-fiction then don’t join a group in which everyone writes and loves science-fiction. Find a group with at least one member who hates it, loathes it, detests it. I was lucky in that no one in my group was too keen on science-fiction and I genuinely believe Regarding Avalon was a better novel because of it. If, each week, you have to face people who don’t care or understand the theories behind faster-than-light travel or the complex and riveting political history of the mighty Intergalactic Gonk Empire, then you will focus less on the genre-related elements of your story and more on the story. This goes for any genre: romance, war, crime, thriller. A balanced group will help you create a balanced novel.
Thanks for reading … 🙂