When your writing life begins to smack of lemons, you start questioning your ability. Have you really got the courage to take that leap of faith and separate yourself from the rest of the pack? However determined you are to get into print, it is not enough. You need courage, shedloads of it if you are ever going to see your novel sitting on the shelves at Waterstones or W. H. Smith.
So, you’ve finished your manuscript. It’s a wonderful feeling of achievement, isn’t it? You’ve told the story that’s been whirring around in your head for months or even years. You’re elated, particularly if it’s your first novel. You’ve been entertaining your writer’s group with snippets from it. Beta readers have read it, as well as all the other readers you’ve foisted it on at various stages of its development. You’ve received, mostly, positive feedback. You’ve taken any negative critiques on the chin and carried out the suggested changes.
You start entering competitions with it and, sometimes, you make a long list.
‘Always the bridesmaid and never the blushing bride,’ you say.
‘It will happen’, your long-suffering friends say.
Oh, yes, and you’ve been told to cut the tropes, idioms and clichés, but you still forge ahead and start querying agents. Tropes, idioms and clichés are alright in dialogue, aren’t they? Anyway, having an agent to work with means they will help me iron out any fuzzy bits, right?
Wrong. You’re in cloud cuckoo land! Where, COVID-19 aside, I have been for most of 2020 – but you have to keep believing that you can make the impossible, possible and taking that leap of faith, requires tremendous courage.
‘Writing well’ and ‘telling a good story’ is only the first step. There are so many of us wannabes in the pack, who are more than capable of doing that.
Setting yourself apart from the pack, that is when writing becomes a challenge. You need to leap over that huge chasm to do it, so you will need those shedloads of courage to help you because there is so much more you need to do after you’ve written your cracking good story.
“Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world.” ROBERT McKEE. Author, Lecturer and Story Consultant
Ah, well, if all else fails, I’ll self-publish, I hear you say. Well, funnily enough, I’ve been saying the exact same thing. However, even if you do go down that route, you are still going to have to go through all those vigorous, time-consuming line by line edits. Self-publishing is not an easy ride either.
There will be times when the right words fail you, and you have a complete confidence meltdown. You still need to fully develop your voice and style, as well as your characters. I’ve often wished that courage could be fed intravenously, but I’m too far gone to give up now, and I know what I have to do.
Recent feedback on one of my projects tells me,
“Developing a strong narrative tone or style is something that comes through endless practice and development of the writing, and is something few writers ever achieve.’
And a more, somewhat galling comment about my characters, who skins I’ve lived and breathed in for the last five years, that they should be:
‘… should be more granular and lifelike…’ 😲
Overall, I need to
“… slow the narrative pace down…”
I should slow down and try not to be so hard on myself. I’ve only been chiselling away at writing fiction for five years after a too long a break, but I’m an impatient late starter.
I need to keep re-booting my wring goals, which mean my deadlines get further away, but before your manuscript goes anywhere, it has got to be as perfect as it can be. The competition out there is fiercer than ever but, hey, nobody said getting published was going to be easy.
It takes a great deal of courage to get your story out there, and submitting it again and again, after being rejected umpteen times, takes its toll.
Never give up, keep the faith. Work tirelessly to hone your voice and style. Set yourself apart from other writers, that is the goal to keep in the forefront of your mind. Make that giant leap.