Yesterday I received my first rejection in the current round of submissions. I was pleased because the rejection was quick. The whole text of it was “I’m sorry, but this is not for me.” Perfect – it said “no”, and it said why – not a good fit. Most importantly, it said it without hanging onto the thing for six weeks or six months.
In the meantime, I’m doing two things – working on the third book of the trilogy (Dark Waters, Dark Skies) and doing a serious cutting and rewrite on the first book. At 150,000 words, it’s about a third too long. I’ve also had some really good feedback about the length of time it takes to show some action.
I know there’s character and setting information in that extra 50,000 words that I feel is important to the story. I also know I could very well be wrong about how important it is, or about how much of it the reader needs to know. So I’m going to try to turn a less partial eye on it and see what I can hack out, compress or rejig. This will be painful. I bear in mind Daphne DuMaurier’s words about her experience editing her first novel: “I cut out passages it had given me exquisite pleasure to write.” Yeah, I’ll be doing some of that.
The pleasure of writing is perhaps half the point of writing. Art needs to be self-rewarding, remember? Telling the story is the other half. What I’m doing now isn’t totally about the writing. It’s about publishing, about looking for someone to put my story out into the world. That’s a little different.
If all I cared about was the writing, it wouldn’t matter to me whether or not my work was ever published. Clearly it does matter, or I wouldn’t put so much effort into finding publication. It would be completely dishonest for me to pretend that I don’t care whether or not “The Swan Harp” and the following books are published. I care a great deal. Yes, I’ll always be glad I wrote them, even if they are never published, but publication would make me very happy, too.
So I’ll put myself through the work and annoyance and, yes, emotional pain, of cutting and rewriting “The Swan Harp” yet again. This will be rewrite number seven, or possibly eight. I’ve lost count.
The good news is that all of this work on the first book has, I believe, made me a better writer. One of my fears for “The Last Black Swan” was that it would be a worse book than “The Swan Harp”. Second books are often not as good as first ones. I was thrilled beyond belief when one of my readers told me that “The Last Black Swan” was better than “The Swan Harp”. I’ve only rewritten “The Last Black Swan” twice. It’s tighter, it moves better, and I think I’ve learned something more about where to start a story.
Now I’m going to apply those lessons, make “The Swan Harp” the story I really want to tell, and also that my readers really want to hear. In the meantime, I’m preparing three more submissions for this Thursday, on my way to my goal of one hundred rejections. Knowing that you guys are reading this keeps me accountable and on track. Thank you. Maybe I could do it without you, but you make it easier.