Every writer should have a no box.
It should sit just out of view but have enough presence to remind you why you are doing what you do and what you need to do to get there. It should hold the crumpled letters that told you ‘sorry not this time’ or perhaps ‘it’s not for us’. Take on board everything they have said and move on. Yes, it hurts that they don’t love it and they don’t want to snap you up immediately with a gazillion pound offer but at least they took the time to reply.
It has all the replies I have received over the years since I first started submitting manuscripts to unsuspecting agents and publishers. Every year I followed the same process. I dutifully bought a brand new copy of The Writer’s and Artist’s Year Book and highlighted and researched all the agents I thought might be interested in my work. I scoured the internet checking their websites, wikipedia-zapped the gatekeepers and double-checked their client lists. After all, I was submitting my babies. I had to make sure that I was willing to send my blood, sweat and tears out to the world and that they would be looked after on their journey to the Planet of Yes.
As you can imagine this was a long process and I needed a lot of patience and preparation to make sure I was sending out EXACTLY what they wanted to see. Nothing more, nothing less. No chocolate treats stuffed into envelopes, no glitter confetti to ruin their desks and their day when they open up my submission and no ‘my mum/grandma/dog/budgie really liked it so you will too’ notes.
I may not have been successful so far and to be honest when I look back at the early WIPs I sent, I am not surprised. But that was then and this is now. I have worked hard, learned some new skills and met some amazing literary friends along the way.
I haven’t submitted anything for a while because I don’t have anything that I can honestly, deep down say is ready to go. I have to be true to what I believe and if an ending isn’t working or a first chapter doesn’t hook me in as well as it could, then it’s not ready. Be honest with yourself.
I attend workshops as a member of SCBWI, I am part of critique groups, I converse with ‘those in the know’ on social media without annoying them and I constantly consider where my next port of call should be. What do I need to work on? What tools do I need to get there? And more importantly, who and what can help me achieve them?
Join a writers/critique/literary group and get out your writing cave every once in a while. Take a deep breath and go. The worst that can happen is you forget your brolly and it’s raining.
Keep the no letters and keep writing. Go get your yes. Someone out there will believe in your story as much as you do. You just need to make it the best you can and press send when you’re ready.
Good luck. And have cake.