Welcome to the first Foxtrot!
In which I inspect roadkill, rejection and being second best...
So here I am with a whole new newsletter, still dancing with words and taking small steps…
For those of you already on my news subscription list wondering what on earth is going on - like a few other writers, I’ve been hit by Wix’s sudden price impositions on outgoing emails, so I’ve trotted over to Substack, and I thought it was time to give my newsletter a facelift in the process.
It's that time of year when existentially I wonder what happened to January, what the hell I'm doing as a writer, how many more ‘wrong’ decisions and mistakes I can make and whether I'll ever feel like a grown up (despite having 55 years of supposed experience and wisdom under my belt). The short answer is probably never. Here’s why…
January, I made an epic roadtrip from the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria to Brisbane in Queensland, a drive of some twenty hours to deliver my middle child safely to university. (I now have two daughters at uni in Brisbane - anyone would think they were trying to avoid me). The drive was fun on the way up although my daughter complained about being forced to listen to country and western music; driving back on my own was less than enthralling - Had I rushed the submission of my manuscript in my desperation to get rid and start afresh? Should I get myself a proper job? Was World War Two fiction really on the ropes? - even the Yellowstone soundtrack seemed to have lost some of its appeal. But hey, I was extremely grateful to the techies for bringing us podcasts and audible books so I didn’t have to listen to my own paranoid ramblings…
February nearly outfoxed me. Apologies for not bringing you glamourous photos of beautiful women or cuddly pets, but after receiving a (not altogether unsurprising) rejection, I feel more like this little chap I spotted on the side of the road…flattened.
Is the world trying to send me a cryptic message? Have I wandered into rejection city? Perhaps I should prepare myself for more lethal traffic headed my way.
Like the wily vixen I am, I took some time out to reflect and remind myself rejection needs to be embraced (as much as one can embrace something about as much fun as waxing your bikini line). Yes, rejection is part and parcel of the writing game, and it’s all too easy to get fixated on the feeling of no-we-don’t-love-you rather than the reasons you’re not wanted. After scraping myself off the tarmac, I reread the email I’d received: My writing was ‘energetic and pacey’. Okay. ‘I think if you had sent me this novel a year ago it would have been a different story...so sorry. And do come back to me with the next if you don't find a home for this one.’ Bugger.
Timing is clearly not my strong suit, but the message is actually not quite so hostiel as I’d first imagined. And at least the hatch to the coop has been left ajar…
So now I’m looking to find ‘Agent of Mayhem’ a new home. Or I might park it. I’m still mulling over my options…
Anyhow, getting knocked back is never fun, but how we deal with it is all important. My time in the military taught me the quicker you get back on your feet, the better your chances of fighting another day and the less likely you are to be flattened by the next truck on the road. We have to arm ourselves with resilience and persistence. Latch on to the positives. Use the setback to analyse the reasons our work didn’t light someone else’s fire and look to how we can improve as writers. Dodge the obstacles when we can and keep our eyes and hearts firmly fixed on the end goal.
I haven’t quite finished yet…
Yesterday, I came SECOND in a writing competition: Romance Writers of Australia’s Ripping Starts. Yay. TBH, I only scraped into fifth place in the first round of the competition, so once I’d ripped the bandaid off about not coming first (Congratulations, Sue-Ellen Pashley!) I should have been fairly satisfied with that one. And I was to a certain extent, but we’re our own harshest critics, aren’t we? Why does second not feel good enough? There are actually a lot of good things about coming second. For starters, it makes you analyse why you didn’t come first!
In both rounds of judging I received great feedback on my writing (thank you kindly), but not so much on my synopsis - eek - which clearly needed refinement. I hate those suckers. I find writing synopses as dull and disgusting as drinking dirty ditchwater. Why oh why?! Are you with me? Hate. Hate. Hate. But facing up to necessity and putting my big girl pants on, I realise I need to commit to improving this aspect of writing. This is the year I give the dreaded synopses the attention it deserves - oh, what deep joy!
Anyhow. Trotting along. Let’s turn our focus on the rest of the year. What are your plans, goals, ambitions, dreams? Tell me! I’d love to hear. I’m here to cheer!
For me, new year, means new project. The unfortunate news is that apparently World War Two fiction is not the go. I’m told agents don’t want to hear about it. The big retailers are not buying it. There has been a glut, my friends, especially of World War Two SPY novels (especially the female variety!).
The good news is, guess what my heart is set on writing this year? Yes! Another World War Two story…At least it’s not a spy story. I wish I could be a tad more adult about writing what the market wants to read, but I’m simply not that cunning. I’m fixated with this new idea I’ve had and I’m a firm believer that even though you should listen to advice, you must listen to yourself most of all.
That is, unless the voice in your head is being a bitch. If that voice can’t say something nice or constructive then tell that bitch to shut up. You are in charge of your body. You are in charge of how you think.
So friends, foxes, chucks and chicks, if you like me have had a bit of a Whisky Foxtrot Tango start to the year, remember you are not alone, and importantly it is how you deal with the knocks that matters. For what it’s worth, here are my top tips for conquering rejection and not winning:
Chin up. Get back to your desk.
What can you learn from your failures and from the competitions you didn’t win?
What doesn’t kill you, may make you wiser…and a better writer, but only if you make it so.
(Stolen from Kaleb Cooper) Dreams only work if you do. Don’t give up working.
Thanks for joining me again. I’ll be back in March…or maybe April.
Trots into the undergrowth to lick her wounds and contemplate how to conquer the world…
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Hey there Anna, I still love ya (and female led WW2 spy tales)💕 So happy to hear you’ve moved on from rejection to set your focus on a fabulous new project. Keep up the great work 👍