Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Bad News...

Last week on Juxtabook’s blog, I wrote an article which talked about getting the email that all writers fantasise about – the offer to publish your work. This week, I find myself writing, on my own blog, about the email that all writers dread, the one that begins with all the things your publisher really liked about your book but whose second paragraph begins with the ominous word ‘However…’. The email that tells you you’ve failed to pull off the difficult second book...

As I've just put up a long post about this and where I'm going from here, I won't duplicate it here but do pop over via the link and have a look if you're interested. It's all, as my mother would observe, part of life's rich pattern. [Actually what my mother said was 'But I really liked it!' Thanks, Mum!]

Meanwhile, I'm hoping to get to Maggie's launch on Thursday next week so hope to see some of you there?

18 comments:

Doug Worgul said...

Alis,

Thank you for the honest, pained, and thoughtful post on your blog. My heart aches for you.

I admit that I fear, as all writers do, that this will be the fate of my second attempt as well. So I'm grateful for your insights.

Bless you.

doug worgul

Alis said...

Many thanks,Doug. I hope your path is smoother!

Matt Curran said...

Hi Alis

Echoing Doug's comments, this is very honest, open and thankfully, optimistic. Testament is too good for you not to be optimistic about your writing. I think we all get seduced by projects that are ill-advised in hindsight, but as Will said to me over The Black Hours, nothing is wasted. Not One of Us is just part of the learning curve, unfortunately one that has taken a year of your life, but it's a writing-experience all the same.

Allowing others to read what you've written is something I too have learned to do recently - I now have a regular group of readers/guinea pigs who get pre-edited copies of my books/short stories for comment (most recently, my short story The Favourite published in First Edition Magazine went through several readers as well as Macmillan). The Black Hours was sent to a friend (that some of you already know), Dave Budd, though unfortunately I did so after Pan Macmillan had seen it. I could have kicked myself. There were several points that Dave made that I'd missed - important points around tone and one or two on the subplots - that would, and will make it a stronger novel. With those in mind, I will be returning to The Black Hours at a later date (though under a pseudonym and maybe another publisher) after I write the third Secret War novel for Macmillan. But that option would never have been there without someone else reading the book.

It's gutting to have a book rejected after a promising start - quite a few of us here have been there. I think as writers we're either too damned obstinate or foolish to admit defeat. We're also addicted to our craft, and we all have a great support network around us with the Macmillan New Writing community, which helps to get through the crap moments in our careers as well as celebrate the great ones. This will be but a blip, I’m sure…

Aliya Whiteley said...

Ouch. Virtual hug.

I was thinking I might be able to get to the launch party. Hopefully I'll see you there - must check about childcare first...

Alis said...

Matt - thank you for this considered and generous response - you're right, nothing is ever wasted whether it sees the light of day or not. And many thanks for your kind comments about Testament.

Aliya - cheers for the virtual hug, much appreciated!

Frances said...

Alis, have another cyber hug. I totally agree with Doug's and Matt's comments, and am so disappointed for you. THAT email is a horrible one to deal with even though Will does it so nicely. But I'm full of admiration for the way you're picking yourself up and dusting yourself down so quickly with an exciting new idea, and wish you lots of luck with it.

Maggie Dana said...

Alis, your post is eloquent beyond words, to say nothing of graceful and gut-wrenchingly honest. My cyber hat is off to you, and then some.

Mags

Ellie said...

Every writer's complete and total nightmare, Alis.

Heartfelt sympathies, but I know you can move on from this. You're a professional. Writing is what you do. Even though right now you probably need to hunker down with wine and chocolate, or whatever your preferred indulgence is. Make sure you do that, too. Now is the time to be very kind to yourself.

(Eliza)

Len Tyler said...

Commiserations, Alis - I really feel for you - but congratulations on a thought-provoking post. I guess none of us ever knows what the next email will be - your post is a model of how to respond. But once you've written a book as good and highly regarded as Testament, any set back has to be temporary.

Look forward to seeing you on the 4th.

Tim Stretton said...

Alis, I'm really sorry to hear this. Your response is an exemplar on how to move beyond this, though. And as someone who reads a lot of historical novels, I know that the historical strand of Testament was so strong that you can certainly write "straight" historical.

A lot of us on this site have had some version of the "Dear John" letter recently - but we're all still writers and we'll all still come back...

Brian McGilloway said...

I can only repeat what everyone else has said here Alis and wonder in admiration at your honesty and ability to handle a setback. Best wishes for your next project.

Ann Weisgarber said...

Alis, here's another virtual hug.

Your beautifully written post made me freeze up with fear. I had to leave the computer for a few hours to take this all in. Now I'm only semi-frozen.

First, you are incredibly brave to be so honest. Second, you're a role model for how to deal with this heartache. You've accepted the comments and are going to write a stronger novel. You avoided the blame game and decided to try again. You aren't giving up; you're inspired. You're starting fresh and that can be liberating.

Maybe someday you'll dip in and out of different centuries, but not with this book. That might happen down the road, but not today.

Alis, if you ever need a reader, sign me up. I've been in a critique group for over four years, and I couldn't write without those people. When my writing is lousy, they tell me. When it sings, they mention that too. Look for a strong group; it can build confidence.

I hope to meet you at Maggie's launch. Maybe you could sneak your son in if childcare doesn't work out. As the child of a novelist, he deserves a reward!

Alis said...

Thanks you all so much for these kind, generous and - in the best sense - sympathetic words, I can't tell you how much your support means.
Eliza - don't worry, wine and chocolate have been to the fore, as have silly films and DVDs of the family's current favourite comedian, Michael Macintyre.
And it was so good to read your comment - 'You're a professional. Writing is what you do' - that's just how I feel, thank you.
Ann - thanks so much for your offer to 'read' for me. I may well take you up on the offer.

I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on the 4th at Maggie's 'do'.

Faye L. Booth said...

Another 'ouch', and another comment applauding you for your honesty and determination. I don't think for one second that your passion for your new project is a smokescreen, because I had a similar experience recently - I finished a book and came to the conclusion that its flaws were evident to me, and therefore would be written in red neon lighting for someone else, so after a natter with my agent, I shelved that book and started work on a different piece that had been nagging me and demanding attention for weeks. Like you, I feel peeved that I spent months working on something that didn't make the cut, but the fact that you not only accept that but are self-aware enough to come to the conclusion that your new project is the way to go shows that you know what you're talking about with all this here writing lark. I know that I'm much happier working on my WIP than I ever was with the book I've now consigned to my computer's virtual bottom drawer, and I'm sure you will be too.

F x

Alis said...

Thanks, Faye! And happy writing on your new wip...

suroopa said...

I can really understand the sentiments that Alis has communicated in her blog. I agree with others - it takes a lot of courage and honesty to be so self analytical. It's harsh for writers, is it not? We learn on the job and mostly the learning coincides with success or failure. Come to think of it publishing is only the first step. It is followed by reviews, sales, shelf life and I dare say recognition (awards)and accolades/brickbats followed by near oblivion, till your second book is ready to go the same way...

Clearly we need to sustain our sanity. What better way then to plunge ourselves in the bottomless pit of creativity! I think Alis has done just that, so have all the others, and as I follow the writing career of Roger, Brian, Eliza and Len, I discover they too are doing nothing different. Though they have found their niche, they have to work just as hard to see their next and next and next work ...succeed. Neither the anxiety nor the heart break/joy comes to an end.

I am quite sure Alis, your next book will be inspired. The very best to you!

Aliya Whiteley said...

Not coming now - can't make it. Have fun. Sob.

Ellie said...

I can't do it either, Aliya, because my son has exams and needs me to stand over him with a rolling pin.

Perhaps we should share a cyber glass (or four) and pretend we're at a party.

Eliza