I’ve been feeling despondent in my fiction writing. When I committed to writing a novel two years ago, I thought I had finally overcome the fear barrier of this mammoth task and was building courage in reaching my dream.
Little did I know that writing a novel wasn’t the hard part, deciding what to do with it after was! It also didn’t help that I’d entered my novel into a writing competition in 2018, coming in as the 2nd runner-up. The immense pressure of the competition had taken its toll on me. After the announcement, I took time off to decide what was next for my novel.
An opportunity arose that saw a publisher calling for partial submissions of manuscripts and I sent Sydney’s Boxer off in December 2018. In January 2019, I received my first rejection letter. It said that although my work was good, it wasn’t what they were looking for. It hurt, I’m not gonna lie. But it didn’t feel like it was the end of the world either. I knew that writers receive many rejection letters before being published. It was par for the course of this vocation.
What I didn’t yet understand about myself was that I don’t fare well with failure. Not winning the competition, not getting published added to my list of failures. And when I encounter failure, I never want to follow that route again. I’m a perfectionist, for me it’s all or nothing.
I decided that going the traditional publishing route was not for me and that perhaps self-publishing was the way to go. The next task was to find an editor to fix my novel and get it ready for publishing. When I got in touch with editors, I was told I needed to get my novel read by beta readers. So far the only people who’d read my work were judges from the competition and my writing friend, Dawn. In actual fact that was enough, but I decided to send it to other writer friends who offered to read it. The process proved fruitless. I’ve now learnt a valuable lesson that manuscripts aren’t meant to be read by friends or writers. Beta reading is strictly for readers. A deadline on when you’d like feedback is paramount. I was given the run around by people I trusted and it set me back.
At this stage I felt as if Sydney’s Boxer wasn’t good enough despite it doing well in the competition. A blog post by Inge Saunders on rewriting a novel caught my interest. The process detects mistakes through retyping. With the help of an additional monitor attached to my notebook, I began retyping my novel word for word. The process allowed me to fix dialogue, analyse sentence structure, spot word repetitions and highlight secondary characters who play insignificant roles in the novel. In the competition I had a tight deadline and didn’t have the luxury of time to deliver my best effort. Now without a looming deadline, I can review my work clearly.
As much as I can see the benefit of this process, it’s been slow going. Every time I finish a chapter, I question why I started the process in the first place. It takes drive to get it done as I’m working on the same project and don’t feel like I’m creating something new. Rewriting is tedious, calling for mountains of patience and perseverance to finish. Since I’m not a full-time writer, the process is taking longer than expected. Diving into another project would mean I’d shelve Sydney’s Boxer and I’m not prepared to do that.
All of this has had a knock on effect on my creativity. Where I had an endless supply of blog ideas, they’ve run dry because my writing process is taking so much out of me. On top of that I keep getting asked when my novel is going to be published! It’s hard to explain when I’m grappling with it myself. It’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap when other writers are publishing books every six months and I’m battling to get one book out. It doesn’t help too when writing blogs dictate that your first novel shouldn’t be published. It’s merely a pat on the back that you have what it takes to write a novel and should never see the light of day.
As much as I’ve noted the advice, I know that only I can decide what’s best for me. I can’t allow fear of failure to hold me back in publishing Sydney’s Boxer. Through my own experience, I have to learn what works and what doesn’t. It’s my journey after all, the good and the bad.