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should I move on from this novel

(30 Posts)
ataposaurus Mon 23-Jun-14 13:12:42

Hi, not sure exactly why I am posting, just wanted to connect with some other writers I guess.

I have a finished novel, which I completed as part of a masters course almost 2 years ago. It took me about 5 years to write, but that is with a demanding job and two lots of maternity leave, so by no means intensive. I think it has its merits, but also some flaws and I have completely lost objectivity on it as well as being fed up to the back teeth of it! In terms of genre it is I guess (trying to be) literary fiction as opposed to genre or chick lit - for want of a better categorisation.

Anyway, feeling I should do something with it I sent it to 5 agents a couple of months ago. So far I have received 3 rejections, which I expected, I guess I just thought I should go through the process of trying. My partner says (and he is by no means a literary expert!) he thinks the opening paragraph is a problem and is perhaps not enough to grab hold of the reader and draw them in - he is probably right and I have today written a different opening, the only problem being it means I will have to make changes in the rest of the chapter which is a pain and time consuming when I could perhaps be using my time better.

The problem is, I am now on maternity leave again and feel I have a bit of a chance to get some writing done (working round baby's sleep patterns). While I have been working and with two young children I really have not had much chance over the past couple of years so this is really an opportunity. I feel perhaps I should be moving on from this novel and maybe try to write some short stories which would at least let me feel I had accomplished something - I have had one short story published in the past but then the monster novel took over all my time and energy!

On one hand i feel that as I have invested so much time in this novel I should at least try to get it published or self publish - on the other I wonder if it is time to move on to something fresh and treat it as an apprenticeship (but then I feel that I have wasted years of my life!) Either way I feel a bit panicky - just wondered if anyone else had any similar experience/ advice?

schmalex Mon 23-Jun-14 13:18:41

3 rejections is not very many. Could you take it to a 1-2-1 with an agent at one of the big writing festivals (eg there's one in York in September) and see what they say?
Even if it's never published, hopefully you've learned a bit by writing it.

schmalex Mon 23-Jun-14 13:19:26

Meant to add, were they standard rejections or did they give any feedback?

ataposaurus Mon 23-Jun-14 13:31:02

Hi, no they were just standard rejections. I don't know anything about 1-2-1 s with agents - is that something you have to book/ pay for? (I thought most agents would probably want to avoid random wannabes wielding manuscripts!)

I am in general not a very self-confident person, which is probably not a good quality in a writer. I think part of the problem is that I don't have confidence in it - there are some bits I am really happy with, other bits less so. But a novel is such a big thing that I guess these feelings might be quite usual, and there are probably things that would be fixed in an editing process - I just don't want to waste time redrafting it ad infinitum!

scandichick Mon 23-Jun-14 13:37:34

Have you tried getting some feedback online just on the opening chapter or paragraphs? There is a review game (=feedback exchange program) on Fiction Press, for example. Rather than giving up on the whole thing a fresh pair of eyes could be useful, even if it means publishing some of the text online.

ataposaurus Mon 23-Jun-14 13:59:34

Hi Scandi, no was not aware of these online reviewing options - will definitely check it out, could be useful.

Guilianna Mon 23-Jun-14 16:28:09

writing IS redrafting, sadly. The work only starts after the first 80,000! you are in a great position to look at it objectively after time away from it.

Guilianna Mon 23-Jun-14 16:31:19

btw I have 4 dead novels under my bed. If you only have to kill this one you got off lightly! grin

TunipTheUnconquerable Mon 23-Jun-14 23:14:49

What would you learn more from, continuing to battle with this one or writing short stories?
A first novel is about the learning. It doesn't matter if it gets published or not, what matters is what it teaches you.

OptimisticOlive Tue 24-Jun-14 07:12:00

Would you self publish on Kindle? I haven't done it (yet) but it's supposed to be very easy. At least then it would be "out there" and you can move on to write something else.

TunipTheUnconquerable Tue 24-Jun-14 07:59:19

The main thing is, get other people to read it and critique (you may need to critique theirs in return, but you will learn a lot from that) and then rewrite as many times as it takes. Don't even thinking about either submitting it or self-publishing it until it's as good as you can possibly make it, or you will regret it down the line.
Mine took 5 drafts but some of the tricky bits took more - I counted up how many versions of the opening I did and there were 15!
That's fine though, it's what writing's all about (as Giulianna says). It's a different kind of satisfying from writing the first draft but believe me, it is hugely satisfying smile

ataposaurus Tue 24-Jun-14 14:43:44

Hi, thanks for the replies. I did redraft it as I went along during the writing process, but it probably is the case that it would need further redrafting to get anywhere, which is a bit soul-destroying. Feel a bit like I am flogging a dead donkey at the moment,though guess it is helpful to see it as a learning process albeit a lengthy one! I think I would perhaps gain more in terms of self esteem at least from moving on and trying to write something fresh which I can complete, so perhaps I will try a short story (if I even get time for that!) and come back to it later.

umbrellabird Wed 25-Jun-14 00:46:01

Hi Ataposaurus,

I am in the same boat and am considering my options too. I do like the idea of all that work not going to waste! Yes it is a learning curve but still a great deal of our time and effort. How do you feel about self-publishing?
Have you edited it yourself?

PenelopeLane Wed 25-Jun-14 05:36:05

I can totally empathise! I ended up getting my first novel professionally assessed which was well worthwhile (even if expensive). It got critiqued quite harshly, and I am about half way through making the changes. It's been over 2 years though, as they were very substantial - for example adding a totally new POV.

BUT in the meantime I started a second novel which I have now finished, and can already tell it's much better than the first as I was able to take many of the constructive criticism of the first on board. Not sure if that helps, but in my case I'm glad I moved on. I'll go back to my first novel eventually, but not just yet.

ataposaurus Wed 25-Jun-14 14:37:17

Hi there, I am not anti self publishing, although I probably haven't really given it a very good go at getting published properly! Although I did redraft it to a standard to submit for my Masters, I suspect it needs more redrafting and editing even to self publish, as someone suggested upthread, which I don't really have the time or energy for now!

Penelope, do you mind if I ask how much it cost to get your novel professionally assessed? Also, I imagine there are so many people/ companies offering this service now I wouldn't really know how to find one that was reputable.

MasqueradeWaltzer Wed 25-Jun-14 14:46:44

I don't recommend self-publishing - it's easy to do, almost impossible to sell any copies unless you have done substantial amounts of pre-marketing.

There are so many amazing online resources for new writers these days, far more than you can shake a stick at. If you join Twitter and follow a few literary agents, you'll find that competitions for free critiques etc. come up pretty frequently. Lots of agents and publishers have communities for new writers - HarperCollins Authonomy is one, and I know Random House have one too but can't remember the name offhand. Curtis Brown agency do lots of classes and other things that are very helpful to people looking for feedback as well.

PenelopeLane Thu 26-Jun-14 00:15:52

I'm not in the UK, but it cost the equivalent of about 350 pounds. It was good though, and I got the recommendation off a friend who works in publishing. Like I said above, I do recommend it, if you can trust the person doing it.

TheWordFactory Thu 26-Jun-14 10:49:16

I would say three rejections is not sufficient evidence that this novel is going nowhere.
If it were me, I'd send out some more subs. In batches of three.

However, I'd start a new book in the meantime.

For one thing, if you do get a sniff of interest, the first thing an agent will ask is what are you working on...and they'll need to know it will get finished in less than five years grin...

OutrageousFlavourLikeFreesias Thu 26-Jun-14 11:10:51

What's your writing goal? Do you want to build a career, or do you simply want to see your work published? Or do you enjoy writing for its own sake?

If you want to build a career, there are more opportunities in novel-writing than there are in short stories. However, publishers and agents will generally want to sign writers who plan to write more than one novel, and who can be reasonably productive (Donna Tartt can take ten years because she's brilliant and the world will wait for her, but most of us aren't in her league).

If you want to be published, then there are many opportunities for high-quality single short stories. You won't make any money from them, but this doesn't mean they're a softer target...however it does take less time to produce a really polished short story than a really polished novel.

If you write because it makes you happy and publication isn't a big deal, then just write what makes you happy.

ataposaurus Thu 26-Jun-14 18:30:34

Hi, I think mainly I would like the satisfaction of seeing my work published, I'm probably not going to be able to build an entire career, from a financial point of view anyway. Otherwise it seems a bit of a waste when I have put so much work and time into it - it makes me think perhaps I should have chosen to work on a short story collection instead as at least you get the gratification of perhaps seeing them in print even if it is only small publications or competitions.

Given the amount of time I have now (ie even less - 3 children and pretty full on job once return from mat leave) I think embarking on another novel would be madness, and perhaps trying short stories would be more sensible - I have always written and wanted to write but not so much the last couple of years and feel I am really lacking a creative outlet at the moment.

APodPerson Fri 27-Jun-14 20:05:10

Hi, self-publisher here.

I was in a similar boat. I took years to write my novel and after spending so much time on it and reworking and fiddling with every word, I was just sick of the whole thing. I also struggled with self-esteem, and it was made that much harder with a small child. I came really close to just giving up on it, just because of the pure terror that seems unique to putting your writing out there.

I wouldn't recommend a professional assessor just yet. Try one of the online critiquing groups first. I think someone mentioned Critique Circle upthread. I used Critters although they're mostly SciFi/Fantasy.

I self-published because I am a control freak, and didn't even try trad publishing.
I'd have to disagree with MasqueradeWaltzer with regards sales. I did almost zero marketing and mine has done much better than I'd expected. As long as you make sure your book is as good as anything traditionally published (ie. pay for a good editor and cover design), it can do well.

Whether you decide to continue with agents or go for self-publishing, don't give up on it. Not when you put so much work in.

There's a self-publishing support thread in the Creative Writing topic you can have a look at, or you're welcome to PM me if you have any questions.

ImperialBlether Sat 28-Jun-14 11:11:25

I thought of my first book like the first pancake on Shrove Tuesday. You look forward to it, you spend a lot of time making it, then when it's made you see its flaws and chuck it away.

Start another - it will be so much better.

However, if your husband thinks it's just the beginning that's the problem, do you want me or someone else to have a look at it for you?

MarianneSolong Sat 28-Jun-14 11:13:05

You could post the opening paragraph here.

ImperialBlether Sat 28-Jun-14 11:14:08

Sorry, OP, just seen your other posts - take no notice of me. I'm still happy to read it if you like.

I also disagree with the poster who says you can't earn money from self publishing without a lot of work.

TunipTheUnconquerable Sat 28-Jun-14 15:18:08

I think there's a huge variation by genre in self-publishing. Thrillers are at the top of the sales charts, litfic is harder to shift.

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