Thursday, August 10, 2017

Writing to be published vs writing for pleasure - Sometimes you just feel like giving up - A ReadItTorial

After kicking back on holiday, and poring over the copious notes of inspiration I made while on holiday I got back into the serious business of writing children's stories again.

I've been taking the approach of 'bottom drawering' certain stories, stuffing them away for weeks - sometimes months on end before reassessing them with (hopefully) a more critical eye. Pulling them out to share with a fantastic bunch of writers I've somehow managed to fall in with really does help too.

But...the more I do this, the more I am coming to the conclusion that writing to be published is eroding the real main reason I love creating stories. Because it's fun, because it's enjoyable, because it's creative and ultimately because a grin or smile of approval from my daughter is actually worth more than a book deal.

It sounds like I'm probably treading on the sour grapes a bit here, and swilling the wine from those grapes around in a glass before gulping the whole lot down to drunkenly have a good rant (but I'm teetotal so I guess I'd have to draw a line under that analogy and think of something else).

You see, the more I get involved with the process of pushing a story out there, getting feedback from editors or other writers, getting endlessly rejected, getting absolutely no response at all, the more I realise that when it comes down to it, the numbers involved are stacked against you even before you start to think about that one in a million chance of writing something that 'sticks'.

Basically if you're the sort of person who has a half-full glass when it comes to writing, you might want to look away now...

  • Most agents take on a tiny, tiny handful of new folk a year, and prioritise writers who have provided 'the goods' previously.
  • Most publishers take on even less, even in open submission sessions (again priority is given to authors and illustrators who can provide marketable books, obviously).
  • Most editors know exactly what they are looking for, so unless you're a mind reader, you are going to have to be EXTREMELY lucky in order to predict what that 'something' is
  • The majority of new authors (and this is mostly borne out by talking to folk who eventually get a book deal after years of trying) might get one shot, and then never get anything published again. 
  • As hopelessly addictive the idea of joining the amazing throng of new children's writers that seem to live an amazing life of trailing around literary festivals, attending school visits, talking to the media (on very rare occasions when the mainstream media bothers with children's fiction and non fiction) or attending workshops sound, it's going to happen to such a small number of folk that again you'd have to be extremely talented and very lucky to get in on that. 
  • There seems to be a growing trend for new writers to end up opting to pay for editorial work, mentorship, help and steerage (which is fair enough and worth considering if you really do believe you've got talent that needs shaping). Quite often the prices involved are pretty hefty, so again it's worth asking yourself if throwing a huge amount of money at this is worth it for what you're hoping to achieve. Certainly if you're some sort of crazy lunatic who imagines J.K Rowling sized pay packets and global sales and think that this will somehow offset your initial spend, think again as that's an even rarer occurrence. Really do not enter into children's publishing for the money!
I've taken a good long hard look at my own work, and I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that I probably just do not have what it takes.

I know for sure that time is one of the biggest factors here. Even with three weeks of holiday I still struggled to find quiet moments to sit down and write, or draw, or kick my brain into creative mode and I think even if I do my level best to devote every spare hour in an evening after work towards sorting out my stories, I'd need to burn the midnight oil and then some.

Being realistic - I don't feel I've got the talent. I've got some good ideas perhaps, but just can't seem to 'stick to the rules' enough to make them work, I find even the most wonderful editorial help in the world (thanks, you know who you are) utterly frustrating to try and apply to my writing, and I keep coming back to that list above and just hanging my head in woe.

There's still a tiny shiny grain of optimism in me that keeps saying "Don't give up, it's never too late, work at it, but REALLY work at it" but dang, that little tiny shred of light is dimming day by day, it really is. I won't abruptly stop writing or drawing, and I'll always want to come up with new ideas, but I am beginning to feel like I'm banging my head against a brick wall when it comes to cracking the children's book market, even with a lot of help from well meaning and very patient folk. 

Perhaps I'd better just accept that being wildly enthusiastic about telling stories or reviewing children's books just doesn't translate in any way into being able to write them, and call it a day.

Writing for pleasure, even writing stuff you know you're never going to show to anyone is akin to therapy, but trying to get something to fit into such rigorous standards really seems like an impossible mountain to climb.



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