Saturday, 14 February 2009


I have hesitated about posting this. The MNW Blog has been the means of spreading all manner of good news - publications, rights, and accolades - and I have enjoyed being a part of it and sharing in everyone's successes. But now I have a failure to report. Macmillan have rejected my third novel. For some time, I suspected that as this mad, self-indulgent romp got increasingly out of control, it might cost me dear - that it wasn't good enough - and lo! Macmillan agree. It isn't good enough. Will was so kind; the pill was sugared with lovely comments, and he'd be happy to consider a (substantial) re-write. But there won't be a re-write; neither will I submit it anywhere else. One day maybe I'll use bits of it, and resurrect one or two of the characters I've become so fond of, but not yet. Of course I'm disappointed, and for a few days I felt an utter failure, but I also feel oddly liberated. I no longer have the albatross of a not-very-good book hanging round my neck, and can get on with something else. Having said that, commiserations (and dare I say, any similar experiences) would be gratefully received, for only a fellow-writer understands how it feels to have a book rejected.
There. Confession over. I feel much better now!


Doug Worgul said...


How brave of you to post this. It's actually a blessing to us that you did.. A real community responds to its members with support and love in good times and not-so-good. And you didn't fail. You took a risk, and it didn't meet its goal. That's different.

Grace to you, and peace.


Frances said...

Thanks so much, Doug. That was really kind. I confess I was very hesitant about this post. But then I felt that somehow it wasn't honest to withold the bad news when I've been only too happy to share the good!

Frances said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim Stretton said...


As you say, it takes another writer to know what this feels like--and I certainly am feeling for you. Two of the three novels I've written never found publishers, including one rejection by MNW (and you're right about the very generous way Will is able to break the news).

"Failure" is such a black and white word, and it doesn't really fit this situation: it may not have been right for a particular publisher at a particular time, but that's a different thing.

You're a writer with a record of writing publishable fiction, and more than once. I'm sure that, in your own time, you'll be back in that space again.

Aliya Whiteley said...

Hi Frances. The same thing happened to me, and it's taken me a good while to begin to get my confidence back. I'm still not completely there yet. Recently Will gave me some good advice. He told me not to try to write to genre or to please the audience. I think that's where I went wrong with book three.

Am thinking of you. I'm sure you find your mojo again.

Len Tyler said...

Commiserations, Frances, on the book, but congratulations on the post.

Just keep repeating to yourself: "Macmillan rejected Thomas Hardy". And Hardy went on to write one or two good books afterwards.

As Tim says, you've already got a great track record. I'm sure book number four will be as good as the first two.

suroopa said...

I had meant to write this as a separate post on this blog, but I will put it as a comment. Sorry for lapsing into these long silences, but I have just submitted the completed ms of my academic book to Palgrave Macmillan, US, and I am incredibly exhausted. Months and months of constant work. Phew!
My link with the wonderful team at MNW never stops, though the novel I had written was refused on grounds that it is too Indian in focus to interest the English reader. I used to sneak off in the midst of my research and write short stories (just to maintain my sanity). I had shown a couple of them to Will. He got back to me very soon. MNW is not venturing into short stories, but he liked them enough to forward them to the editors at Picador, India. Lo and behold I learnt just two weeks back that Picador is going ahead and publishing them. They want to see my novel as well.
So strange as this may sound, Frances, I believe there is no rejection in absolute terms. Only something fits the bill while others don't. How inexplicably things Indian are sweeping the market at the moment! If I am lucky then my inspiration flows with the tide. Otherwise I will have to wait. The truth is I cannot stop writing. Not yet.

Brian McGilloway said...

Hi Francis

Sorry to hear your news but you have all our admiration, I think, for the frankness and honesty of your post.

Best wishes


David Isaak said...

An agent once told Lawrence Block that a writer who never gets rejected isn't aiming high enough.

I've had plenty of rejection and expect to face a lot more. It really gnaws away at my confidence, and I doubt that I will ever come to love it. It seems to come with the job, but I freely admit to wishing it didn't.

Alis said...

Frances, many commiserations but, as others have said, thank you for this post - it saves us from the Christmas-letter tendency to talk only about successes here...
I admired, too, the way you confessed to having fallen out of love with your book back in November - is it too much to hope that perhaps this rejection isn't as devastating as if you had been passionate about the novel all the way through?

Anyway, I really hope you enjoy your freedom from this albatross and have lots of fun with the next book.
Happy writing!

Matt Curran said...

Hi, Frances

Echoing everyone else here, commiserations and thank you for posting this.

Grumpy Old Bookman said in my response to their being highs and low in writing: "Lows? How can there be any lows?" I guess this proves it - but I wouldn't say it's a failure. I'm certain there are many bestseller writers with projects that didn't make the grade during their careers and are now residing on the shelf or in a file to gather dust. But nothing fails when you get as far as you have - it's just a learning curve. It will knock your confidence to a degree, but it sounds as though you weren’t expecting Macmillan to snatch the project from your hands – was that writerly instinct? If it is any comfort, your writing instincts sound like they’re intact, and maybe this book was a simple clearing of the throat for something much better to come along.

Best wishes


Frances said...

Wh did I ever worry about posting bad news (and I did)? You have all been amazingly kind and encouraging - I can't tell you much it means. Thank you all, very much. I hoped the MNW Blog was 'for better, for worse', and it certainly is! And congratulations, Surooopa, on the short stories.

Faye L. Booth said...

Sorry I'm late in replying, Frances (I've been ill), but I wanted to add my commiserations, as well as applauding you for posting this news. I'm sure this is just a bump in the road.

Eliza Graham said...

Sorry I've missed this, too, Frances and am so late in passing on my commiserations. It always hurts, doesn't it?

I am very nervous about my own third novel. Third time unlucky always seems a likely reversal!

Eliza Graham said...

Oh, and I also meant to add that Macmillan (the children's imprint) rejected a YA novel of mine.

So hands up all of us who've had a rejection! We're in a good crowd.

Frances said...

Thanks so much for all the support. It's been a huge help having feed-back from people who really understand, and I'm so glad that I took the plunge and publicised my rejection (I nearly chickened out). Rejection is pretty horrible, but Will was absolutely right, and the more I think about it, the more I know I was mad to write that novel, although it was great fun (if rather costly time-wise)! I shall PLAN the next one. I've never planned a novel before, and I think I'm learning the hard way that this is not always a good idea... And Eliza - the very best of luck with your deadline. I shall be very surprised indeed if your novel is not a success.

Eliza Graham said...

Thank you for that very generous response, Frances!

Yes, planning novels out....a painful business. I'd rather have teeth pulled. Writing a synopsis in advance is about the best I can manage and that bloomin' well nearly killed me.

Eliza Graham said...

Thank you for that very generous response, Frances!

Yes, planning novels out....a painful business. I'd rather have teeth pulled. Writing a synopsis in advance is about the best I can manage and that bloomin' well nearly killed me.