Stand Up and Be Counted

Watched Scorsese's Shutter Island last night on cable. A masterful piece of Kafka-esque paranoia vs conspiracy nightmare. I love stories that blur the line between reality and what the mind can perceive as real. I especially like 'double twists' at the end of movies.

Ironic that the most outlandish of the paranoid delusions the DiCaprio character experiences are based on actual facts about the CIA and FBI's actions during the 1950s when trying out their own real-life version of the Manchurian Candidate.

Today, we look at staying on top of your writing game.

It's been a great week writing-wise - but it reminded me how fragile we are as humans - and how we've got to look after ourselves, even if all we aspire to is comfort and happiness.

I finished the first draft of a new novel Wednesday last. Robyn's doing a proof of it now so that it's ready for submission next week.

Finishing a project brings up odd emotions. Nearing the end of the MS last Friday, I felt a curious wave of sadness - as though I was composing farewells to old friends I would miss dearly.

By Tuesday, and the completion of the final chapter 'wrap up', this feeling had morphed into elation at a job (I thought) well done. Riding this high, I did something I never do:

A complete copy edit in one go. Took me seven hours not stop Wednesday to go through and do a final proof before handing the MS over to Robyn.

I guess I deliberately wanted to get this done quickly so I could circumvent the next inevitable emotion: doubt.

You know, that horrible little gremlin that sneaks under the covers at the end of a project and says, "What were you thinking? Spending all those hours and days and weeks - for that?"

It's a nasty niggly voice and maybe I'm the only one who suffers from it, though I don't think so. My subscribers often complain of a similar gremlin.

Of course now, while I know my partner's reading the MS, I'm going through the "please say you like it" phase where any kind of criticism of my latest baby will hurt like a burning poker through the spleen.

Thankfully she's said some nice things so far - but then she would, wouldn't she?

Partners can be ruthless with their criticism, but at least Robyn's a multi-published author so I think I'm getting honest feedback!

Fingers crossed they're not just platitudes.

Just in time this week I got a lovely rejection letter from an editor I admire greatly. He didn't want the particular story I submitted to him but he did take time out to say he thought I was a 'skilled writer', which I found hugely encouraging.

You need things like that to keep you getting your work out there.

I consulted my submission spreadsheet this week and realized this whole 'submitting' bit needs work on my part. Of the fifteen fiction projects I might consider 'live' at the moment, only around three are actually with a publisher. Not nearly enough.

How am I ever going to get up to the requisite 100 rejections if I don't apply myself more vigorously to submitting manuscripts?

Because we know it's a numbers game. The best evidence confirms that if you're not receiving a multitude of rejections, then your writing efforts are pretty much for naught.

You could be the next big thing but if nobody's considering your work, how will you ever find out?

It's too easy to reside in a comfort zone - unwilling to receive feedback that might shatter the dream.

But it has to be done. You can't rely on bumping into a fabulous contact in an elevator who can rocket you to fame and fortune.

You have to do what other writers have done since the beginning of tablet etching: submitting to publishers and agents and editors continually.

Fitzgerald famously said he could paper the walls of his writing room with rejections. That's how it is, and should be, for writers.

And I feel bad sometimes because I know I don't get nearly enough rejections to know I'm really trying hard enough.

I woke up this morning with a pain in my knee. Don't know what it is - probably nothing.

But it did remind me I'm only mortal and that one day I may not be in a position to keep writing, let alone submitting.

Get a move on, Rob, I thought, get a darn wiggle on...

Know what I mean?

Keep writing!

(c) Rob Parnell