Friday, May 23, 2008

Eliminate the negative?

I was having a declutter today, with a view to moving Stuff back into the room with the shiny new floorboards and almost completed fireplace. I didn't mean to. I was searching for an orthodontic appointment letter and got carried away.

In the midst of a ton of paperwork I came across some rejection letters from my First-Ever Novel. Curious, I read through them thinking, bloody hell, I don't even remember some of these. They were oddly positive. One agent wrote a good two pages suggesting possible changes and suggested I re-submit when I'd done them. Trouble was, at the time (nearly five years ago) all I saw in those letters was Get Lost, You're Not Good Enough. I wasn't experienced enough to know that receiving anything but a standard reply-slip from an agent was a Good Thing. I simply thought bloody charming that is, had a cry, went all negative, deleted (yes, deleted) the manuscript from my PC, stuck the letters in a drawer and didn't do much else for a while.

Honest to god! I could kick myself in the teeth. What was I (not)thinking?? It also struck me like a boxing glove that those agents/publishers thought I was on to 'something' and, try as I have since then, it's a something I can't seem to replicate. What was it? I enjoyed writing it, that's for sure. I also wrote it at the speed of light because I stupidly sent out the first three chapters before I'd written the rest and got 2 requests for the full ms. I didn't even edit the damn thing.

There's a lesson in there somewhere. I didn't find what I was looking for, but I found something.

I'm hoping someone can tell me what it was.


JJ said...

OMG, what a terrible story (the post, not the ms, obviously). I wish I could tell you but I can't. The rejection letters could still give you lots of self confidence even if their novels are long deleted!

SpiralSkies said...

But you did it once, you MUST be able to do it again.

Oh, how utterly unbearable. I'm going to come round to your house and hide the 'delete' button.

Lane said...

Oh cripey cripey cripes. But take heart. What you had then, you still have now so hurry up and get it finished missus.
And may I suggest a very large biscuit crumb is strategically placed under the delete key, just in case.


Clarkey, you're now older and wiser, so may I suggest you back up all youur work onto a memory stick and leave that delete key well alone. Keep writing you have talent. Tommox

HelenMH said...

I can't believe you deleted it! I never delete anything - and I've written some real crap in my time. But you can do it again honey - we all know you can x

Yvonne said...

Wow Karen that's seriously impressive that you got all that feedback on your first go. And if you've done it before, you WILL be able to replicate that again!

kallioppe said...

Maybe you found a much needed and positive reminder to keep you going through the dark times.
If I may take a leap here, what you wrote about deleting and not facing the criticism, hints that perhaps you weren't ready then, despite getting a positive rejection (oxymoron but so is everything). I used to be delete happy until I read that Sylvia Plath never deleted anything. She kept excess words, bad poems, all of it in a drawer --cause you never know. I don't know what that says and whether that is egotism or self preservation. But you could paint a little skull and crossbones on your del key to remind you of the dangers.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Karen this was so useful. Experience and wise words in one post. Nature is a bit of a bummer because we are so self conscious when we are younger - add ten years of maturity and we would probably be the success we deserve to be because we would have had the confidence to know better. At least you had the courage to sednd then out in the first place. Your time will no doubt come. Great writer.

Kerry said...

Although frustrating (for you!) I think this is really heartening. You must have written something fairly stonking if 3 (3!) separate agents saw enough to want more. Particularly if it was unedited (!!). That means you can do it again with the weight of all your added experience - go get em!!

L-Plate Author said...

I think the lesson is not to give up hun. I don't have all the copies of every thing I did because when I was trying to write short stories, any rejection would mean that I was useless. But now I'm older! and wiser! I back up everything, so much so that my drafts are numbered and when I want to resurrect a piece I have cut I know which draft to go back to, type a word and find the piece immediately.

Don't ever press delete.
Don't ever give up.
Use the words of wisdom that you leave me on my blog for yourself. xx

Ernest de Cugnac said...

Karen - some undelete software is on its way to you! Alas, not true, but it does exist and some of it is public domain. Still have the hard disk??

Debs said...

Bum, I lost my comment, probably was the shock that you deleted your entire ms.

Mind you at least you now realise that you have talent and must surely have more confidence to carry on.

KAREN said...

jj - I know, I couldn't believe I was so daft! It did give me food for thought re-reading those letters though :o)

spiralskies - I bloomin' hope so. Got a horrid feeling I've been Trying Too Hard ever since, but I've got high hopes for the current attempt and I'm doggedly ignoring the delete button.

lane - Large flapjack crumb is in place, and as I'm hopefully wiser (definitely older) now I wouldn't be so flippin' half-baked. Ironically I've kept ALL my rubbish old short stories!

tommo - I think I've aged in dog years since then, and will definitely be backing up in future Funnily enough I asked my mum if she still had the copy I sent her, back in the day, but she'd thrown it away! Charming.

helenmh - I know! I've kept all my terrible short stories, just in case, but didn't keep the flippin' novel. It clearly wasn't meant to be!

yvonne - Shame I didn't realise that at the time! I got some standard rejections as well, and I just lumped them all together. Tut.

kallioppe - That's a good point actually. I clearly wasn't ready back then, but have learnt an awful lot since thank goodness. I definitely won't be deleting in future, though :o)

mob - Well, we live and learn as they say. If I'd had the self-confidence to match the courage I could have been onto a winner!

kerry - It was heartening until the frustration kicked in!! No point dwelling on it though...definitely time to Get on With It!

l-plate - Funny how we don't always practise what we preach isn't it? I'll be taking all advice on board now, and that includes never hitting the delete key in a fit of pique!!

ernest - Sadly, it was an old PC that's no longer with us. My mum did have a printed copy, but informed me on Friday that she'd chucked it away!! I'll try not to hold it against her...

debs - It's weird because I normally do keep things, but I just looked at it and thought, 'oh well, better let it go...' and that was that! I console myself that it was never meant to be :(

Emerging Writer said...

Never delete - store in a directory/burn onto a CD marked post humous publication only for when you're famous and your kids want to live off your reputation!

wordtryst said...

I've learnt to never, ever delete my writing. I once burned the only copy I had of a short story, regretted it, tried to rewrite and just couldn't get it back.

We live and learn.

Tam said...

deep breaths....deeeeeeep, it's no good. I'm off for a lie down.

PS: You can do it again!

womagwriter said...

Don't you ever, ever delete anything you write ever again, and that's an order.

And you will be able to do it again - you've a really strong writing style. Just get the right plot, sit yourself down, and, er, follow the advice of your blog name.

KAREN said...

emerging writer - I've definitely deleted the word delete from my memory now, and will be stocking up on CD's :o)

wordtryst - That's the trouble when you try again, it's never the same is it? Anyway, I've learnt my lesson!

tam - I still have to have a lie-down whenever I think about it, so I'm trying not to think about it!

Thanks womag writer - I think I've recaptured something with my latest attempt, so fingers crossed!

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