I heard over the weekend that my entry into the Kate Nash ‘Great Novel Openings’ competition did not progress past the long list.
I was thrilled to make it to the final 29 out of 500 entries, but although bronze is still a medal, it’s not the silver of the short list nor the gold of the winner.
Whenever a work gets rejected there’s a temptation to create your own TV programme: CSI Manuscript. A flotilla of unanswered (and, frankly, unanswerable) questions bob up and down before you, with the misguided notion that there is a guaranteed system to ensure a contract and, ultimately, publication.
What you can do is write well, gain experience, get writing credits, do your research, present your work in the best possible light and persevere. What you can’t do is complain, assume the agent / editor has made a terrible mistake (and worse, tell them so), stop writing or afford to spend too much time frowning into your flatscreen.
Feedback is invaluable in these circumstances, but again, one must remember that literary agents and editors have a business to run and sometimes, however well written a book is, it just doesn’t fit the list or something better has come along. If in doubt, write something else.
It has been said (by me) that the staple diet of most writers is jam tomorrow, humble pie and hard cheese – with lemons to follow. And as the saying goes, when life gives you lemons…. suck ’em up!