Saturday, 3 January 2015

Failing at the Highest Level.

Digest Version: Wrote a book, didn't sell. Quite enjoyed the process. Not disappointed.

So, 2014 was a pretty exciting year for me. I spent most of it working on a big concept SF novel named 'A Darkness Against the Stars' with my agent, Rob Dinsdale of Dinsdale Imber. And I loved doing it. Rob picked up the novel on the promise of the first part, wasn't as taken with the back end of it so I ripped that out and rewrote. Then rewrote and rewrote and rewrote. It probably sounds like hard work but it wasn't - yes, occasionally I'd get tired of reading the same bit again or rewriting it but rarely. Mostly because Rob supplied what I wanted, which was a critical eye and an understanding of the business of writing that I don't really have and aren't really interested in. Plus, I really like Rob, he makes me laugh[1] and I keep that at number one on my priorities list with people I have/choose to deal with.

Then the book was set free, sent off to the publishers and Rob was pretty upfront with what he said about its chances in the current market. Slim, was the gist of it. He also used the words 'too cerebral'[2] at one point. Like any neophyte author I heard this as 'not good enough'[3] but again, Agent to the rescue by pointing out if it wasn't good enough he wouldn't send it out.

So it went round the publishers, feedback was got. Mostly it was good, some people didn't like it as it was too slow. Some people didn't think some bits worked, some people plain didn't like it – which is all well and good, I don't really want to write stuff everyone likes as my mind tells me it would have to be a bit middle of the road[4]. But, some people loved it. Really loved it. I had the wonderful experience of talking to people, people whose job it is to know about this stuff, who got it. Who saw the things I'd put in there that weren't obvious, that were hidden in the text, who were excited by the bits in it that excited me.

But it fell at the final hurdle (I say final but I think there are a few avenues left, however, that's agent stuff that I don't pretend to understand). When Rob emailed me with a 'well we tried but not this time,' I genuinely got the feeling he was more disappointed than me [5].

Thing is, I've found out I can do this. I can write, it works. I am not awful at writing. I may not have sold but I'm writing pretty close to a professional level[6&7]. That is worth a year or so of work for me as I've always felt like I'm winging it.

Also, I've always told myself I write because I want to write, not because I want to be a writer, or make money[8] or be known. I'm writing because I love to write and now I know I'm not lying to myself about that. The most painful part of this entire process was between the book being sent out and it not selling. I had nothing to write. Couldn't start a sequel, couldn't start anything else. I wrote shorts to keep my eye in but I prefer a longer form and a huge part of not being disappointed was the sense of relief that cam with being able to start something new[9].

It's only now sort of filtering through that it's unlikely people will get to read 'Darkness,' which is a pity as I think I created a great, and pretty unique, universe and some memorable characters. As I said, there are still avenues to explore and there's always self-publishing - though, if I'm honest, I'm not sure I'm at all suited for that. Freeing it on Amazon is probably the same, for me, as it not being read except I lose first world rights should anyone ever be interested. Besides, I'm a going forward sort of person and that would sort of feel like going backwards, which I'm not into.

The upshot is, 2014 was pretty great really.

Also, a publisher bought me steak. In London.

So cool.

1. *Maniacal laugh* Why once again, Mr Dinsdale, you have failed to understand my genius.
 2. I can actually hear people I know rolling around on the floor laughing at this.
3. I'm not paranoid. Are you saying I am? What about your friend? What did he just say? What about them? You know, them, the others. The people over there. The ones hiding and cringing at this obvious joke? Eh? EH?
4. 'Yes, but what about....' LA LAAALAAA LAA CAN'T HEAR YOU. I AM SINGING.
5. His reply read 'well, that's the most sanguine reaction I've ever had.'
6. Please feel free to point out the grammatical errors in this blogpost that prove otherwise.
7. Either I am writing at a pro-ish level or the entire publishing industry is perpetrating a practical joke at my expense (see 3).
8. Will not refuse money.
9. An, as yet, untitled fantasy thing.

1 comment:

  1. 1) Stupid publishers.
    2) Never mind - one day your genius will be recognised - hopefully a lot sooner than Van Gogh's was.
    3) When it is, you can look down your nose and sneer at them.
    4) Come to think of it, you're tall. You can do that already.
    5) Mega kudos on the being bought steak in London.
    6) Onward with the fantasy thing! To arms!
    7) Happy New Year to you and yours :)