I'm not good at disappointment. Even though I was, and am, well aware of the odds, I got so disheartened as the flat form rejections trickled in for my last novel that, with my next project stalled, I felt like jacking it in, at least for the time being. At least one person round here has never quite forgiven me for the blog I wrote about this.
As a last throw, I bit the bullet and went in for a WW critique on my rejected MS. It might have been cleverer to have done this before submitting, but as it turned out that probably wouldn't have made much difference. The real problem, I was told, was that I'd written the wrong book. Publishers and agents see no market for ghost stories. The introduction to my report contained this:
Although the idea of the ‘haunted house’ isn’t exactly original, I admire your story and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It should be stated right away that I rarely say this.
And this was part of the conclusion:
If this is your first shot at writing a novel, I’m genuinely impressed. You are a talented writer and I am absolutely certain that you could turn your skill to writing in other more commercially viable genres. Personally, I’d like to see more of your work.
This was from an editor who told me in an e-mail that her reputation for unsparing criticism was such that Harry Bingham once described her as 'a bit of a bugger.'
That report picked me up off the floor, for which I shall always be grateful. I began to reconsider my stalled WIP. Okay, so no more ghost stories, but what if I replaced paranormal creepiness with human evil? A psychological thriller, in other words. Would that work within the framework I already had? Could I write a novel I believed in and could invest myself in on that basis?
After two years and a lot of brainstorming, the answer turns out to be yes. I believe that what I now have is not just more commercially viable than my last one, but a better novel. A stronger voice, more psychological depth, more emotional oomph, more mystery, more tension.
And this time I've done it the right way round. I've sent it in to WW before submitting.
Well, what would you have done, when an editor has said such nice things and told you she'd like to see more of your work? Yes, I asked WW to allocate my MS to the same editor. And my request has been granted.
And another thing. Last time I was a bit worried that, as an author whose reputation was for gritty thrillers, she might not 'get' my ghost story. Now I find that she has switched to the same genre that I've turned to, psychological thrillers. And I've tried to heed the advice she gave me about the shortcomings of my last one while writing this one. In theory, then, she ought to love it, if I've done my job properly.
But the doubt demon is always there. And I'm not good at disappointment.
I'm on tenterhooks.