The blog's suffered lately. I've been working on my book something fierce, giving the first few chapters a complete overhaul. It's amazing to see how writing skill improves in time, because the last few chapters I wrote are so much better than the first ones in the book. And while the change in narrative is gradual, I'm not at all happy with the idea of submitting the first three chapters to an agent if they're that badly written.
Fortunately they've already been completely revised and I'm much more confident in them now, but I do still have the nagging doubt about the whole book. It's not my skill I doubt - I have a lot of faith and pride in my ideas and my characters, and I think I'm a relatively good writer. I'm not so good that people would stop and say "wow, what a good writer," but I believe I'm good enough that people will keep reading and understand what's going on.
But that's not where my doubt lies. My doubt instead lies with the likelihood of getting an offer. There are so few agents that accept fantasy in the UK and that limits me right off the bat. Not enough not to try, of course, because I absolutely love writing and that's been the case for almost 12 years now. But when you consider that bad writing skill is just one of many reasons you can get rejected, it's a bit disconcerting. There's the technical stuff like the presentation of your query letter and the structure of your synopsis, both of which give an insight into your writing skill, how seriously you take yourself and your work, and a little bit about you as well. If these are poorly presented, they may not even request the first three chapters. There are a number of websites out there that can help you to write these to the best of your ability and they're at the top of my bookmarks, so that is in my hands, but then there are the things that simply aren't.
I could present a perfectly written synopsis, a great story, and a professional cover letter. In short, I could give an agent everything they would want and I could be rejected purely because they're not able to take on any clients at that time, or because they don't feel that they, personally, can represent the story, no matter how well-written it is. And I don't dispute these points, of course. An agent won't see a penny for their work until a book sells, and if they don't think they can do what needs to be done to make that book sell, they'll waste their time as well as mine. And I know that I don't want an agent that can't represent it well, or an agent who doesn't have the time for me but has squashed me in anyway. I want an agent who will be almost as enthusiastic about my book as I am, who can give it the time it needs, and who knows the right people to talk to in order to take it where we both would want it to go.
But it's that uncertainty, the areas I have no control over, the chance, that has been weighing on my mind. I can self-publish, yes, and if this book is rejected I might do just that, otherwise I've wasted 2 and a half years. But the trouble with that is that I personally - and admittedly rather unfairly - view self-published books with low expectations. I don't mean to, not at all, but any time I've read a self-published book it's never had the same quality of writing as a traditionally-published books. I think it's because no one encourages you to revise, revise, revise before self-publishing, but agents will certainly do that before even accepting to take the book on, let alone approach publishers with it. And while revising is exactly what I'm doing right now, I don't want to self-publish and have people view my work as second-rate without giving it a chance.
But, having said that, I am also well aware that, if the book does well even as self-published, it would give agents a better idea of what I can offer when I approach them with another book in the future. If the book gets good reviews and maybe even sells well, an agent would be more inclined to take a chance on me because they would have some kind of figures rather than none at all.
So, while the book is far from complete in terms of revising and, as such, I'm nowhere near ready to send out any query letters, I'm still fretting about it. Who knows, maybe I'll be given an offer and I'll be worrying over nothing, or I'll get rejected, self-publish and do well through that. Or I'll self-publish, it will do horribly, but the next book I write could take off.
You can't waste time guessing. I know that, once the book is done, I will send out query letters and then I will submit my work to those that ask for it. When they go out, I'll start work on my next book, and when I get my responses I'll already be hard at work on it and rejections won't be as upsetting. And if I get rejected by everyone, I'll try to find an artist to make a cover for the book and I'll self-publish it and cross my fingers.
This is what I know I will do, because I can't let myself waste 2.5 years on a book for it to collect dust and go unread. And a rejection isn't going to stop me from writing - after all, I submitted my last book and received rejections along with comments of "clearly talented" and "very readable" from a number of different agents, and, after a little bit of research, discoverd that agents don't just give out compliments randomly like that, so I should take them as sincere. Those rejections still upset me, but I started work on another book instead. And when this is rejected, I'll be working on another. I have no intention of stopping, and I understand enough of agents' criteria to know that a rejection doesn't necessarily mean that it was bad.
I'm yammering now. Like I said, it's been on my mind and I've been quite focused on it so everything else has fallen by the wayside. Writing fantasy is the only thing I truly want to do with my life. I don't want to be a freelance journalist forever, I don't want to be a blogger forever, I don't want to be a jewellery maker forever. These things are brilliant for me right now, but they're not what I have my hopes set on, and I'm working very, very hard on what they are.
So if my blog goes through periods of silence over the next two months, now you know why.