We writers tend to be solitary creatures, poised over a keyboard whilst offloading the pandemonium going on inside our heads. We spend weeks, months and years investing ourselves in a work of fiction but, during that time, we have no idea whether our 80,000-word ± manuscript is going to appeal to a wider audience.
When writing fiction, we enthusiastically start with some sort of trouble going on at t’mill and write feverously towards The End with a burgeoning plot plan, a few twists and a dollop of artistic licence which, we hope, will ultimately resolve our protagonist’s conflict.
In the seclusion of our writing space, we morph into our characters. Once inside their heads, we place them in impossible circumstances, which deliberately hinder their progress, then spend hours pondering over the best way to get them out. I have shed every tear Lisa Grant has cried and I have felt her pain.
“I will go to my grave in a state of abject endless fascination that we all have the capacity to become emotionally involved with a personality that doesn’t exist.”
Will an alien spacecraft rescue our protagonist? Will there be a melodramatic meltdown? Will our characters finally find love? Will he or she manage a James Bond-esque escape or… try to see the funny side?
Whatever genre you wrap up your story up in, once you have done all of the above, in however many weeks, months and years it has taken you to reach The End, the next step is to get people to read it.
You start bullying your readaholic friends into reading it. Don’t give them the first or the second draft, because they’ll come back to you and say it’s great that you’ve chosen writing as your hobby, which will make you freak out and rewrite frenziedly, several times over. No bad thing but, give them the eighth, preferably the ninth draft to be on the safe side, when they will come back and say yeah, I really enjoyed reading it.
By this time you will have also read a fair amount of it to your Writer’s Group as well, in your best Am Dram voice and had complimentary feedback, which you’re hoping is not just because of your theatrical overtones.
You’ve entered a bit of your manuscript into a few competitions and although you haven’t actually won anything, you’ve taken on board some of the interesting feedback you’ve had. In my case… amuse rather than bludgeon the reader with witty lines, so I have cut everything that could be considered reader battering.
You’ll have written the synopsis, well, you have hundreds of different versions of it stashed on your hard drive, you don’t really like any of them but you pick what you think is the best one and send it off with your query letter and wait.
This is the point, three years on, where I need to manage my expectations and my carefully chosen mantra is rejection is not the end, it’s just a step on the path.