In Australia only one in four thousand fiction manuscripts will be published. The advice – frame your first rejection letter because that’s pure motivation in black and white. Heck, frame all the others, too. Wallpaper your office, your hallway and your bedroom with them.
But what if your number comes up?
When my publisher accepted my manuscript I couldn’t believe it.
The first editing meeting was awash with ideas: dramatise this, change that. I reckon, eighty percent of my editor’s suggestions were spot-on and most of the others would fly if I could turn them into my ideas. Then there were a curly few that left me thinking, back up the fucken truck, lady!
But I was afraid.
You are lucky to be here, I said to myself. Don’t make any sudden moves because soon, in better light, they’ll see their mistake and you’ll go back to being the failure you expected to be.
I did what any writer would do. I bitched to a privileged few, kept my fear away from my editor (as much as I could), ate chocolate, and eventually said, ‘No, I won’t be making those changes.’
Lots of writers wouldn’t let a little statistic like one in four thousand (that’s .025%, btw) rub them the wrong way. Plenty of writers have a solid belief in their work. I believe in my words, too, but I have the occasional disbelief in me. It could be called Impostor Syndrome but I’m thinking of renaming it, shut the hell up and get on with it disorder. I like making sentences, they make me.
Stephen King Junior is not the only writer son I have, Karate Boy writes as well. He’s recently been made aware of a national writing competition for kids. Planning to win, he’s choice-rich and can’t decide between the iPod, the Xbox or the e-reader.
I said, ‘Matey, you’ve got do the words first.’
Crushing? Nah. Motivating? Not required. He’s working. Karate Boy is doing his words first and dreaming of a mention in the school newsletter. He’s not taking his Ritalin, he’s troubled (we both are), but he’s making sentences. His words are setting him free.
There’s liberation in making sentences and, to a writer, there’s nothing finer than seeing your words in print.
Unzipped was published and suddenly people (not all) want my opinion. What I think of Fifty Shades and erotic fiction as a whole (I have a couple of sex scenes in my book, now people think I’m an authority. Yes, I can get you writing good sex, but I won’t (necessarily) get you having good sex). Third person or first person, what’s better? I’m asked about working with editors, publishers, publicists, and The Big One.
What does it take to write a book?
Today’s answer is ENDURANCE.
Endurance can be sexy – look at Daniel Craig in those pants, he keeps on going. James Bond has endurance.
But on the whole endurance is not sexy, it’s sticking and sticking, it’s pushing through, it’s being up all night, it’s sweat, exhaustion and it’s staying until you are done. Hey, maybe it is sexy.
If somewhere on a shelf, there is a book with your name on it, you are a staminatious legend.
I have no doubt that one day I will buy a book written by my youngest son. At the moment Stephen King Junior is writing something called, The Soldier Termite Company. He got the idea from a YouTube of an ant kicking a termite to the curb. There are two main characters (termites), called Jo and Josh and they hook up with a third termite called Ben. The first two termites die, and the newcomer survives. It’s a hero’s journey with termites. All from a YouTube clip.
Ideas are free, the execution is yours, that’s the bit you own.
Here is something I never thought I’d say. There is freedom in being edited. When Unzipped was going from a manuscript to a book I tried to pay attention because I was learning – but it wasn’t easy when my sentences were hitting the floor. I often asked myself if I was being precious, was I too tied to my brilliance to let someone else in? (I may have phrased it like this: dude, are you being a fuckhead?) (Typical. SKJ has just walked in and the word he notices, because of its wrinkly red line, is fuckhead! I see a bad mother award coming my way)
Last week I was thinking about the editing and looking forward to a next time.
Beauty and luxury can be found in handing in a manuscript and seeing what your editor can make of it. How it turns from a bundle of sticky noted pages into a beautiful, beautiful book is magic. And all I had to do word supply the words.
For the record, Stephen King Junior isn’t interested in being edited, he spells how he wants and doesn’t want to know about a slippery point of view. But he’s ten and that’s young enough to not understand. I had trouble when I was forty.
Let your manuscript go. Feel the freedom.
This is my writing partner, Sue STAMINATIOUS Williams and her new novel, Murder with the Lot.
Look at her. Feel the freedom. Buy the book.