Sometimes, even if you are working every day and being productive, being a writer can be troublesome. It’s nothing to do with rejection slips arriving – they are part and parcel of the author’s life. For me, it’s knowing that publishers are sitting on manuscripts that I am convinced are publishable. When you’ve been writing for thirty plus years, and you’ve had over 120 books published, and you have positive feedback on your final draft from your writers’ critique group, it’s frustrating when months and months pass by and you hear no word from publishers -- even when you email them and remind them that your manuscript was submitted last year (or X number of months ago) – and they still don’t acknowledge you.
My husband (prize-winning author Bill Condon) has given me a saying that helps when the wait becomes painful. Bill says that ‘No answer is the answer.’ So what I’ve decided in future is that if the publisher does not respond to a submission within six months, they are not interested. In fact, they are just plain rude in not responding. In no other industry, in seems to me, are suppliers treated so badly. If I was in the building industry, for instance, and submitted a tender for a project, there would be a timely reply – favourable or unfavourable. (Last year, of the 139 manuscript submissions I made, there were 56 manuscripts which were not replied to -- even when I had supplied SSAEs).
Now that I have established a good publishing track record, I can afford the comfort of knowing that I am capable, that my manuscripts are (generally speaking) marketable. But how difficult it must be for the new writer who has spent sometimes years crafting a work, often in isolation, and then submitting with a heart and soul full of heart? And then never having the courtesy of a reply? I really feel for such a writer.
The thing to do if you are waiting eternally – and maybe also receiving rejection slips, is to develop a thick hide -- and to keep on keeping on. Nothing, but nothing, it seems to me, is a more important ingredient in creating success, than the fact of persistence. Of course you need talent and skill as a writer and self-editor, and you need to know your market – which publisher is ‘right’ for your manuscript -- but persistence ranks so highly I know that if I didn’t have it by the truckload, I’d never have been as successful as I have been for all the decades I’ve been writing.
In spite of the self doubts, the stumbling blocks, the eternal waits and the rejection letters, the sometimes pitiful income – the numerous hardships of being a writer -- there are many benefits. Here are some of my reasons for enjoying being a writer:
· I am my own boss – I have control over what I write and how I write it
· I can work from anywhere! For me, the best place is home where I am lucky enough to have my own office
· Working from home, I don’t need to commute to work, and I don’t have to worry about reporting to a superior. I work the hours I choose to work, including having days off when I want
· I can wear my daggiest clothes all day if I so choose
· I never get bored; I always have a project on the go and can escape to other worlds of my own imagining simply by tapping keys
· I can influence the lives of children through the types of stories I tell
· I can enjoy my own company but go out to socialise whenever I wish
· I can weave scraps of my own life – my emotions and experiences – into my stories, so writing becomes a kind of catharsis
· I make money from doing what I love – and get to meet and make friends with some wonderful people in the book industry
Do I have days when there are road-blocks – when I can’t think how to develop the plot of a story I’m working on, for example? Of course I do. But I don’t a chain to my computer: I can go for walk, do the shopping, hang out the washing and so on. I can take time off, as much as I need, and let my conscious (or subconscious) do its thing. And of course, I can always go check out my mail box – just in case a publisher (or two) has decided to send me an acceptance letter with a contract!
Dianne (Di) Bates works as a full-time writer from her home near Wollongong NSW which she shares with her prize-winning YA author husband, Bill Condon. She founded the Illawarra-South Coast CBCA six years ago and runs a proactive blog, Writing for Children, http://diannedibates.blogspot.com.au as well as a Australian Children’s Poetry blog http://wwww.australianchildrenspoetry.com.au In 2008, Di was awarded The Lady Cutler Award for distinguished services to Australian children’s literature. Currently Di works as a freelance writer and manuscript assessor. Her website, which she shares with Bill, is www.enterprisingwords.com.au