Enjoying the Unopened Box

So I’m guessing most of you know what Schrodinger’s Cat is, but for the sake of clarity; the idea as far as I understand it (and I’m quite sure it’s infinitely more complicated than the way I understand it) is that if you put a cat in a box with a bunch of other nasty stuff, then until you open the box, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead – in that, until you open the box, you don’t know which it is. Now my knowledge of physics is limited to some half-remembered, disconnected GCSE facts, but this I actually understand. (Well, sort of – I did have to clarify with Pete that this was just a ‘thought experiement’, and that Schrodinger didn’t actually put a cat in a box and wait for it to die.)

Currently, I feel like I have a (metaphorical) cat in a box.

Bear with me.

So last Friday morning I pottered into New Writing North to edit some Cuckoo reviews, got myself set up, opened the various tabs I need for work and the various others I have open anyway. When I got to Twitter, I saw this:

tweet

Now my initial feeling was, obviously, excitement. Then anxiety. Then, when I looked sideways at how many reviews I had to edit that day, a wince. But hey, let’s be honest, it was a small miracle I’d bothered to check Twitter in the 24 hours I had to find out about this; I wasn’t going to pass the opportunity up.

So, intending to send tweet-pitches for both my new project and the book I’ve been submitting, I cracked on. I started with the new project, because a hook occurred to me pretty much immediately. For the interested, this was my pitch:

“What if YOU were your own currency? Sweets cost eyelashes, a car costs a memory, true love; your health. And what if you made a bad trade?”

Then I settled back to work, thinking I’d work on the next one during my lunch break (it takes an inordinate amount of time to condense an 85,000 word novel into 140 characters). Exactly TEN MINUTES later, I received a private message from Chicken House asking me to send a full novel pitch and my manuscript in progress to them. Bearing in mind I’m used to waiting 2-3 MONTHS for a reply, for about a minute and a half my only reaction was this:

blink

Then I stood up and sat down again, did an in-the-chair jig, clapped my hands together like a three year old on their birthday and sort of stared around the empty office, wondering what the hell to do with myself. I ended up leaving work early through sheer friggin joy.

So over the weekend I have been frantically writing, re-writing, re-writing again and trying to work out what on earth a ‘full novel pitch’ actually is. It’s honestly been a blast. Mostly because it feels like it’s been a good while now since I’ve had a positive response to my writing – I know that in the scheme of things it hasn’t been that long at all, but Jesus it’s felt that way. I’d gotten myself properly mired in the Rejection Blues. So even to have had a thumbs-up that doesn’t lead anywhere is just the best kick up the arse I could have received.

But speaking of leading anywhere, this is where we come back to Schrodinger’s cat. Even though you thought I’d finally cracked at the beginning of this post, here is the relevance: this is my unopened box. This brief period in between being given good news, and finding out it’s not going anywhere. And unlike my previous full MS requests, where I checked my emails relentlessly and willed the agencies to respond to me as fast as possible, this time I plan to just enjoy the knowledge that the cat could be alive in there.

On Friday, for the first time in ages, I bounced home, and spent the rest of the day high as a bloody kite. To make matters even better, I got a phone-buzz every time someone liked the pitch I’d sent in to Chicken House, and every one pumped a little bit more air into my happy bubble. And I know – Christ, do I know – that this bubble is more than likely to pop, but fuck it.

Right now it’s fat and happy, and so am I. Whether the cat’s alive or dead, for the rest of this week at least, I plan to enjoy every single second of not knowing.

happy dance

 

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Moan, moan, apologise for moaning, moan…

So it’s going to be a short one today, for the following reasons:

  1. I had written a longer post about feedback, in which I basically banged on about how regardless of what anyone says to you, you will not receive real feedback from agents. The post was, frankly, not that interesting or funny, and I wasn’t overly happy about putting it up, but didn’t have time to try something else. Then, as I was finishing writing it, I got a rejection email from the second agent to have asked for my full manuscript, containing really quite a lot of feedback.
  2. This rejection, for reasons that don’t make a whole lot of sense even to me, has been by far the most crushing so far. Some combination of the professional-but-personal tone of the emails I had received from this agent, and the fact that the main issue they had with the manuscript is actually a pretty major problem that I can’t quick-fix, and the fact that the email was so long that for an instant I thought it might not be a rejection, has all melted together to make me feel, really, pretty lousy.
  3. What should balance out this news is that the day before this rejection, I received another request for my full manuscript. Whilst this is unquestionably excellent, I’m afraid I’m just not as excited about this agency as the last one (trust me, I am telling myself that beggars can’t be choosers in a continuous stream), and am also starting to get distinctly wary of letting my hopes get all high again.

So essentially this is just a boring update post I’m afraid. A little bit too much has happened in a short space of time for me to actually wrap my head around, let alone form into a coherent blog post. This morning I was seriously considering packing in for the first time (ooh, just listen to those violins), so to save you all reading any more confused whingeing and me making any more of a prat of myself, I’m gonna leave it here for this week.

i just have a lot of feelings.gif

Come back next Monday for an actual post, and the longed-for return of my sense of humour.

Edit: Goodness, wasn’t that just a mess? Sadly now I really don’t have time to put anything else together, so I’m afraid we’re just going to have to make do. Suffice it to say I’ve managed to claw myself a good way out of the above self-pity pit in the days since it was written, and next week will return with a real post, perspective and – I can almost promise – no complaining!

Next Post: I think I’ve now pointed out enough occasions when I have blithely ignored even my own advice, that it’s worth considering when – and when not – to follow writing / publishing advice generally. I actually once made a short film about this as part of a university project, so depending on my levels of self-consciousness next week you may even get to see me doing my utmost to avoid being on camera!

Submissions Last Week

*sigh* I really am just the worst resolution-keeper ever. I only sent off one, okay, but – as you can see above – I was sad and traumatised and very, very confused! Also the third agent to have requested my full manuscript has asked to read it exclusively, so next week will be more of this, but with less of the guilt and excuses.

Current Rejection Tally: 10

Square One. Again. Naturally. (Well, Actually Square One and a Half)

You guys are gonna get so sick of me writing posts about rejection. But then…in my own defence, it really does say this on the tin.

You remember that Good News post a few weeks back, in which an agent had asked for my full manuscript and I was trying not to get too excited, in case it came to nothing? But really, I was doing that thing where you’re not doing well in a game, so you start saying things like ‘God I’m such a loser’ and ‘there is no way I can pull it back from here’ whilst actually quietly hoping you could still snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?

Sadly, the universe wasn’t fooled and my full manuscript was met with another rejection.

sad

So originally this post was intended to lament the tragedy of having hope given to you, only for it to be snatched nastily away as soon as you get attached to it. In spite of all my vocal caution and ‘I don’t want to get too excited, but…’, I was pretty darn bummed. I entirely ignored all of my own advice and spent that evening and much of the next day curled up in a blanket with unwashed hair and a steady stream of biscuits, binge-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was all a bit tragic.

But I had started to bounce back. A friend had provided me with a surprisingly helpful metaphor – that my submissions were like job applications – a job which I had been applying to for literally years. And having my full manuscript requested was like finally getting an interview for that job. It’s a weird balance, because on the one hand you’ve managed to progress further than ever before; but on the other, failure here lands you right back where you started. A similar (though less mature) metaphor, that I feel better communicates the sheer frustration, is when you’ve spent a truly embarrassing amount of time going over and over the same level on a video game (in my head this is Super Mario) – you finally make it to the boss at the end of the level, only to not get a single hit in before being squashed under his great spiky turtle-shell. That can induce some primary school-level tantrum-ing, right there.

So with thoughts like these having helped me salve the wound a bit, I was planning to end this post on a ‘but you can’t give up that easily’ note, and maybe an entertaining ‘I regret nothing’ gif. Unfortunately I was feeling too sorry for myself to write this post on my usual schedule, so it hadn’t gotten any further than mental planning.

And then…

(Oooooo…..)

Another agent requested my full manuscript.

gawp

That was pretty much how I felt, too. Whilst still being thrilled to itty bitty pieces about it, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling distinctly ‘once bitten, twice shy’ this time around. None of the giddy phone calls or group messages this time. I’ve told anyone who has directly asked me how this blog / my submissions  / my general level of sanity is going, but haven’t made the same kind of song and dance about it. I even considered not writing about it on The Rejection Box until I knew the outcome either way – to at least save myself the mild public embarrassment. But then I realised that was literally the opposite attitude to what this blog is supposed to be about, and so here I am. Happy, but wary.

And that’s really all I’ve got to say this week, I’m afraid. I’m sorry for the lack of useful information or advice in this post, but my brain hasn’t fully wrapped itself around what’s happening yet, which makes writing about it in any kind of knowledgeable way feel a bit false. I’m less sorry for the lack of ‘please don’t think I’m ungrateful’ platitudes, because really, who enjoys reading those? (Please just assume I am always worried about coming across as an arsehole, until further notice.) I’m also getting more and more conscious of the need to avoid repeating myself, or continuing down the rejection->possible success->more rejection->more possible success cycle, so please excuse this meander-y, slightly useless update of a post.

Maybe go look at that hilarious David Tennant gif again, and click off this page with that as your abiding memory. Okay? Okay. I’ll keep you posted.

Next Post: A (possibly slightly belated) explanation of exactly why I’m sending my book off to agents, as opposed to the alternatives. I know very little about self-publishing, but the very little I know will probably make a daring appearance, as well as at least three mentions of how much I hate marketing.

Submissions Last Week

Bit of a cop-out here. None this week – having reached around the 25 submissions mark, I was considering taking a week’s break to see if I could chase up some more responses. Then I got the request for the full MS and, even though this agent hasn’t asked for exclusivity, it justified my need for laziness I’m afraid. But I really will crack on again from next week, I promise.

Current Rejection Tally: 8

Holding good news at arm’s length like it’s about to explode…

So in a truly surprising twist – I have some good news. And even before I type I’m wondering how best to downplay it, but we’ll get to that later, so here it is:

An agent has asked for my full manuscript.

For those who are like, ‘…what?’, I’m sorry to say that an agent asking for my full manuscript does not mean my book will be available in Waterstones by next Tuesday. BUT, it is a very hard to achieve first step down a road I have been trying to throw myself onto for ten years – so this is, without question, a VERY GOOD THING.

My initial reaction, in fact, was to click on the email I was fully expecting to be Rejection #2, see the words ‘full manuscript’ and be like:

oh my god (2).gif

I called my boyfriend and shrieked down the phone, realising when he asked me what the email said that I was so overcome with manic excitement I hadn’t even read it yet. I then called and sent messages to a motley collection of other people, and about two hours after I’d seen the email, suddenly had a thought:

‘What if I have to call all these people back in two weeks and tell them nothing came of it?’

And that – after a very ramble-y introduction – is the theme of this week’s post. How do you balance feeling overwhelmingly excited, self-satisfied, expectant and immensely hopeful with the knowledge that there is a very good chance this agent will email me back with the rejection I was expecting the first time?

If you’ve continued reading for an answer to that question, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you. I am treading new and volatile ground over a mental cesspit I’ve only just crawled out of, and my instinct is telling me to jump up and down.

So far my reaction to the news (which I received just under a week ago, at the time of writing) has been – shall we say – mixed. I spent a not-insignificant part of the evening following the email hysterically weeping for literally no reason, as if my body had released ten years worth of ‘mild success’ hormones.

i-dont-know-why-1i-dont-know-why-2i-dont-know-why-3

Since then I’ve just sort of…carried on. It’s in the back of my mind all the time, but in the meanwhile there’s not much I can do except continue, and hope. And I don’t even know how much hope is good for me! Whenever I’ve told someone what’s happened and they’ve been kind and happy and excited back at me, my reflex is to tell them that this might mean nothing. But then I stomped to work, furious that I hadn’t been able to immediately quit and embark on the lifestyle to which I would like to become accustomed.

I imagine this post itself reads like the wordy ramblings of the Hulk. Are you angry / happy or not?!

And I really, really hope this post hasn’t sounded ungrateful. I am very happy – but I’m also acutely aware of the fact that my happiness on this matter is totally and completely outside of my control. I know that by the time you’re even reading this post, I could have taken another enormous step down that road I’ve so coveted – or I could be back at square one. I have no way of knowing, and I’m so scared of this ray of hope being snatched away from me that I’m kind of hiding it from myself; like if I don’t look at it too hard, maybe nobody will notice I have it and just leave it with me.

So, yeah. Apologies for the rambling this week – as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve been having a hard enough time trying to corral my thoughts into any kind of sensible formation, never mind structuring a blog post around them! Ultimately what I’m trying to focus on is that even if I do end up back at square one, at least I know now that I’m not wasting my time. Even if only one agent at one time thought my story might be worth looking into – that is definitely progress, whatever the outcome, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.

So after all that, I will leave you with an elegant explanation of my hope for the future:

dance 2.gif

Next Week’s Post: Backing gently away from unchecked emotion and towards actual productivity and usefulness, I’m going to expand on something I mentioned in my Rejection post and explain why I think working on something new at the same time as submitting something old is a top-notch way to cling grimly onto that sanity you’re so precious about.

Submissions Last Week

None at all, as I’ve given the agent who asked for my manuscript an exclusive look for a couple of weeks! And if you think I’m horrifically lazy enough to be thrilled at this accidental break…you would be exactly right.

Current Rejection Tally: 1