So in my Rejection post a few weeks ago I mentioned how helpful I think it can be to start working on a new project as soon as the old one is in the submissions stage. I say this having never actually successfully achieved it – but the theory is stellar. And here’s why:
- It’s fun
Really though. I’ve always found the range of attitudes writers have to writing frankly hilarious. You have everything, from the people surrounding you telling you that if you don’t enjoy writing then you shouldn’t bother, to George RR Martin telling you he enjoys ‘having written’, to Hemingway saying you ‘sit at a typewriter and bleed’. And I have definitely experienced every one of those emotions whilst 50,000 words into a story I’m suddenly not sure is any good.
But, that’s a few months down the line. The start of a new project is like:
Because it’s all the good bits! For me at least, the best thing about writing is the story – and the start of a new project is all about the story. You can sit around in your pants (optional) and think about why your favourite Joss Whedon characters are your favourites, or what it is about the relationship between the kids in Stranger Things that works so well, or how cool it was in that book when all those characters who hated each other had to work together. You can weave whole new characters and plots and make them all the things you’ve loved in the last couple of years. And if you have a sudden doubt that actually maybe that thing in the middle needs to happen nearer the end, you don’t have to have a week-long crisis of debating whether this is enough of a problem to require four months of rewrites. You just draw some squiggly arrows and big crosses in a notebook and it’s sorted.
The fun of starting a new project, to my mind, is the perfect antidote to the soul-crushing cycle of expectation and disappointment that has certainly characterised my submission process. Remind yourself why you’re actually doing this – because, really, it’s worth it.
- It’s productive
I’m here to tell you that however rigidly you stick to a submissions timetable, you will still feel like those bits of food that go gunky and block the sink (wilted and gross? …no?) when an agent responds to the submission that collectively took you about three hours (not to mention the months of work on the novel itself) with a two-line, standard rejection email that doesn’t even have your name at the top. If they respond at all, that is. It’s extremely easy to feel like you are just wasting your time, to which the best solution, I reckon, is to use some of your other time really, really well. And what could be more productive than getting started on a whole new project?
- It’s distracting
So thirty or forty times a day I have a conversation with myself, which goes a bit like this:
The ‘Eat The Chocolate, Stay In Bed, You Can Exercise Tomorrow’ Voice: Check your emails.
The Sensible Voice: But I checked them eighteen seconds ago.
The ETCSIBYCET Voice: An agent could have replied in those eighteen seconds. It’s been twenty seconds now.
Sensible: Probably not though…
ETCSIBYCET: You won’t know unless you check.
ETCSIBYCET: Dooooo it…
Sensible, now downhearted: Nope, just that Travelzoo promotion full of holidays I can’t afford…
ETCSIBYCET: I mean you could always have a look at them, though…
Clicking ‘refresh’ on your emails is not a good use of your time. Do anything else. Better yet – do something productive.
- It’s like Dream Backup
So just for a minute, let’s consider the worst possible outcome. It’s been months. You’ve (I’m using the second person here mostly for peace of mind) sent the book off to literally every relevant agent, publisher and competition in the country and they have all said no. Everything, without question, sucks.
But do you know what I’m betting makes it worse? If you then have to muster up the phenomenal amount of willpower, bravery and sheer bloody-mindedness to start again, from scratch. I imagine for myself at least, that every time anyone made a casual, gentle enquiry after that writing thing I used to be interested in, I’d just be like:
That, surely, is the moment in which you are most likely to give up.
UNLESS, that is, you already have a plot outline and a few thousand words under your belt! Don’t get me wrong, that’s not going to wave a magic wand and cure the open, bleeding rejection wound – but it might at least disinfect it a bit.
So yes, I think the best thing you can do to keep yourself motivated and reasonably sane is to start a new book as soon as you send off that first submission. Even if you can’t or don’t devote loads of time to it – it will help. It’s helping me.
That, and the occasional cheese binge.
Next Post: A very, very carefully worded and much-debated-over attempt to not shoot myself in the foot whilst discussing the contradictions of the agency/submitting author relationship, and the respect (or lack thereof) that goes in both directions. Literally everyone is going to tell me not to write this post, so I’m probably going to fumble over the words so much it’ll come out more or less meaningless. Stay tuned!!!
Submissions Last Week
None, as explained in my last post. (Though actually I did send a cheeky one off over the weekend to an agent who was only opening for submission until Monday…shhhh…)
Current Rejection Tally: 3