Most writers get used to rejection early in their careers. The trick is to have a little cry, eat some chocolate, take on board any constructive criticism offered and then get back to the business of writing. And it always helps to know that you are not the only one being constantly kicked in the teeth.
I first met Dianne Noble on a weekend novel writing course in 2013 and then again at Swanwick a couple of years ago. Dianne’s first novel, Outcast, was published last week by Tirgearr Publishing and she’s kindly agreed to share her rocky journey to publication:
It started with a journal.
I’d been doing voluntary work in India for several months, teaching English to street children in Kolkata and keeping a diary. My experiences seemed to be a good basis for a novel. Alas! Agents and publishing houses alike thought differently and 32 rejections later I stopped submitting, sat back and licked my wounds.
The painful truth was that my writing was just not good enough. After nursing my bruised ego for several months I started another book, based in India but with a different story. This time I took it in, chapter by chapter, to each of two writing groups I had joined. Their critique was merciless and I often felt like abandoning the whole idea. Why did I think I could write? What made me think I could be a published author? However, bit by painful bit, my work was pulled into shape and I felt ready to start the submission process again.
I trawled through the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook highlighting a) agents and b) publishing houses who not only handled contemporary women’s fiction but also accepted unsolicited manuscripts. I found them to be thin on the ground!
The plan was to have three submissions out at any one time and as each rejection was received, submit one more. This didn’t always prove to be viable as response times varied dramatically.
Conville & Walsh refused me in 17 days, Curtis Brown took 5 weeks, Aitken Alexander 8 weeks. Some were many months in responding, others didn’t reply at all.
It’s hard not to take rejections personally, to feel that you are deluding yourself that you can write, but all you can do is plough on and hope. One morning I opened an email from Tirgearr Publishing with the usual sinking heart, without noticing there was an attachment. A contract. How many times I read this before I could believe that someone liked my novel!
This small, independent publishing house requests the complete manuscript and guarantees an answer within 4 weeks and this is exactly what they delivered. Once I had signed the contract I was fully prepared for them demanding radical changes to my book but they accepted it as it was, other than a small amount of editing for grammar, punctuation and the occasional anomaly i.e. he had dark hair in Chapter 1 and by Chapter 12 he’s gone bald! Art work for the cover was organised in house, a website was set up linked to Tirgearr and the book was released on March 16th 2016.
The most important thing for any author, in my view, is to join a writing group. Not a cosy one where gossip is exchanged over coffee and cake but a tough one. A group who will critique, pull your writing to pieces, maybe reduce you to tears. Then, when your novel is as good as you can possibly make it, start submitting. Again and again and again. You’ll get there.
Good advice from Dianne. Her success has been hard won and well-deserved. Outcast is already sitting on my Kindle and I’m looking forward to reading it.
Find out more about Dianne and her itinerant life on her website and why not take a look inside Outcast?