Thursday 13 February 2020

#writingishard4 - Tenacity

Matt Haig
Notes on a Nervous Planet

If you are a writer, tenacity is certainly a prerequisite. Writing is hard. Also, it is very enjoyable and the best job ever a lot of the time, otherwise why would we do it? Whatever stage in your writing career you will need tenacity. Everyone’s journey, as an aspiring writer and/or as a published writer, is going to be different and personal to you. Consequently, it is important, as Matt Haig says, that you ‘Do not compare yourselves to others.’

It is worth also remembering that writing is a marathon, it is not a sprint. You might hear odd stories about people writing fast and being published very quickly. For a start, I’d say I bet they have done a whole lot of prewriting and that is why they could write fast, but they are just not counting it because it sounds so much better if you can say you wrote a book in a couple of months. Being published quickly is often the case of being in the right place at the right time (or being a celebrity!) The reality for most of us is very different. Writing takes time. A tweet I circulated recently said that according to Paul Graham, ‘The easy, conversational tone of good writing comes only on the eighth rewrite.’ To be honest I thought eight was a bit optimistic. More like twelve plus at least! Be prepared as well that it might take more than one novel. You may write several before you find the right one that really works. Flight was my fourth novel. The other three are unlikely to ever see the light of day, but I see them as my practice

novels. I learnt so much writing each one of them. When Flight was picked up, I had been writing seriously for over twelve years. (the photo shows a meeting where it was decided I should start submitting Flight. I was lucky I not only worked with Golden Egg Academy, but I was also mentored by Imogen Cooper)

Rewriting and editing can take a very long time and luxuriate in that first book when you do have time to dedicate to it. It’ll be a different situation after you have been picked up by a publisher. The deadlines will be a whole lot tighter and the chances are you won’t have so much time to write any subsequent books once you are published.

Once you have got a deal and a book out there, tenacity is still necessary. It might be linked to other elements of your life as a writer. Obviously, you will be writing your next book, but you are also going to be publicising/marketing your current book. Having a presence on social media, cultivating new audiences, potentially presenting at schools, literary festivals or undertaking library visits. It is all about juggling and ensuring you don’t become overwhelmed. See a recent post I did for the AwfullyBigBlogAdventure blog on remembering to enjoy your work.

Be kind to yourself. Writing’s hard, as I said, and the ‘journey’ can be a long and bumpy one, particularly if you are getting lots of rejections from agents and publishers. We’ve all been there, and it is really bruising. Allow yourself to grieve briefly each rejection. Then remind yourself it’s one person’s opinion and it only takes one person to say ‘Yes!’ Don’t be hard on yourself, see the rejection as part of the journey and something constructive. If you find in the rejection feedback that they all mention the same element as an issue/concern, then you know you need to address it. If, however, the feedback is all different, read it. Take it on board. Work on what you think is fair and relevant then move on to the next submission. One day you might be the one talking to aspiring writers about the number of rejections you got, as a badge of honour, and how you eventually got published. This photo is over a rejection letter I got a long time ago for a novel that when I look back
it is was nowhere near ready for submission. It is from my greatest friend, even though at the time we hadn’t met. That came later and that same person, Imogen Cooper, changed my life and the direction of my writing. 

Importantly, don’t give up. You can do this. The writing community is amazing and supportive. Find your tribe and talk to them. Understand that getting a book published is hard, but if you believe in your story, build that tenacity up

 Ness x


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