Why decide to write?

At first glance, this question appears such a simple one to answer, yet behind it there lies a multitude of perils. Certainly most people write for the sheer enjoyment: I derive a huge amount of pleasure from transcribing the ideas in my head onto the page and I hope that the people who read those words get as much satisfaction from them as I did in writing them.

However, deciding to go further than the ‘writing-just-for-the-hell-of-it’ stage presupposes that people will want to read what you’ve written. Furthermore, that it is of sufficient quality to warrant publication – just because your mother/grandmother/sister/neighbour/dog/gerbil/postman thinks you’re good doesn’t mean to say that you are. Flattering when friends and relatives say these things, of course, but the real test comes when it’s put out there in the real world, in front of publishers and editors who (hopefully) know what they’re about. Rejection slips are often your writing’s best (and only) friend.

Rejection hurts, of course it does, but it’s an occupational hazard. However, it needs to be put into context: it means that your story/book wasn’t quite good enough or wasn’t what they were looking for and so didn’t quite cut the mustard. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t good enough – just that what you submitted isn’t. Every rejection should be viewed as a learning experience: how can I improve my writing? What do I need to do to make it better? Could I have written this in a different way that would have brought the themes out more emphatically or more dramatically? These are questions that any writer should be constantly asking themselves anyway, regardless of rejections – it is the only sure way to hone your writing into a weapon that’ll floor the editor/publisher you’ve submitted your work to. And one point to bear in mind is that even well-known authors get their work rejected from time-to-time – it’s too easy to imagine that they’ve only to sneeze and anything they’ve written will automatically get published. That certainly isn’t the case.

Another important point, which was brought home to me recently by an editor/writer. She expressed amazement at how many submissions she’d received from hopefuls who couldn’t spell and didn’t understand anything about grammar. At the very least one would hope  that any aspiring writer would at least be able to write fluently in their mother language. Spellchecks and grammar facilities on apps like Word are there for a reason and are meant to be used if you’re not sure. There are also dictionaries online to help, too. In other words, when submitting a manuscript, ensure that it’s presentable and words spelt correctly. Otherwise, it’s a short journey from the desk to the bin.

Also, submitting your work IS the only way to get noticed – hoping that a publisher will magically get to hear about how good your stories are and then beat a path to your door with contract in hand just ain’t going to happen, bud. Unfortunately, if you submit a manuscript it means opening yourself up to criticism and we all know that some can be quite cutting. This is where writers have to develop a thick skin – no one can seriously expect to enter a public arena without encountering some negativity about their work. One would hope that any critique, even a bad one, would at the very least be balanced and fair, but again, that probably isn’t going to happen either. So, those who put their work out there just have to face those dragons when they inevitably rear their heads above the parapets.

On top of that, even your favourite authors spent (sometimes fruitless) years getting where they are now – sharpening their prose and storytelling skills, then constantly sending material out to prospective publishers in the hope that one of them would pick it up, and, if it was, the nerve-wracking wait to see what the book-buying public (and critics) thought of it. On top of that there’s the whole self-promotional aspect (which, luckily I find quite fun) – networking and attending cons and such. It can be a lonely and thankless preoccupation, being a writer BUT it can also be incredibly rewarding – for instance, when you get an email/letter saying that your story’s great and they’d love to publish it. It can make all the difference between a crap day or the best one of your life.

The bottom line though, is to just write and, over and above that, to enjoy yourself whilst doing so. Yes, there are numerous potholes and pitfalls on the rocky road to getting published and it’s a long hard slog just trying to get your name out there – but if it was as easy as we would like it to be then everyone would be a writer. Explorers and adventurers didn’t go to the farthest reaches of the globe because they thought it would be a walk in the park: they went BECAUSE of the sheer inaccessibility of these places. We should think along the same lines, as aspiring writers: the destination isn’t necessarily the ONLY thing to see – lots of equally exciting things can be seen on the way there.

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2 Responses to “Why decide to write?”

  1. Cathie Gibbens Says:

    Yup, I agree with what you have written here (don’t get me started on spelling and grammar people!).
    However, I would also through one more into the mix – just because you receive a rejection slip does not automatically mean that your writing is no good – it may just be that the particular publisher is not into your style or genre. It is worth checking out literary agents/publishing websites especially the two/three partners ones to see what they like.
    For example, a publisher in Oxford states quite clearly what they expect, how it should be laid out and when you will expect a response. They also say that you should only send your manuscript to ONE of them, depending on which genre you wish to submit under e.g. one of the partners focuses on memoirs, while the other partner may be more interested in short stories.
    Check out their websites beforehand, that way you won’t end up as one of those pencils that says ‘I’m made from a ton of paper and a polystyrene cup!’.

  2. Very good point there Cathie…. I may even write another blog at some point about this very topic….

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