Absolute Beginners. From what I can see they fall into three main camps.
Absolute Beginner 1: The Eager Submitter
Writes a story/novel/screenplay, grabs their copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ – the ancient dog eared one the library were selling for 10p on their bargain shelf – and goes through it marking “possibles” with their highlighter pen. Sends off their first three chapters to a publisher then from the moment it drops in the postbox, waits for a phone call/letter/email begging for the rest of the manuscript. Here they divide into two subs. The one who starts writing something else and the one who stops writing and will not write until they have their contract in their hand (just in case the publisher wants them to do revisions). Both expect to hit The Big Time.
Absolute Beginner 2: The Shrinking Violet
Writes a story/novel/screenplay and decides no one in their right mind is going to want to publish it, so they put it away in a drawer. But the Writing Bug is there, so they start writing something else telling themselves that this time, it is the one, but halfway through they lose heart. What is the point? That effort is hidden away and the next one begins because the writing itch has to be scratched and so it goes on for years, sometimes decades. Absolute Beginner 2 may never find the courage to send anything off and they won’t even let their nearest and dearest read their work. How many wonderful books, I wonder, are out there hidden away in drawers?
Absolute Beginner 3: The Eternal Planner
Buys all the books on writing, reads all the blogs, spends hours in the library/bookshop checking titles and browsing the internet visiting publishers’ websites. What is popular? What is not? Who publishes the kind of thing they want to write. They have a white board on the wall covered in plans, names and dates. There are post-it notes everywhere, folders with character sketches and pictures of people who look like their characters. With all this research and planning they don’t actually have time to write anything and by the time they get round to it, the fire has gone out and they decide to start something new and so the research begins again.
So where was I as an Absolute Beginner? Well if I’m honest I was mostly Absolute Beginner 1. Although I didn’t send off my very first efforts I did write a novel of black magic and Satanic rituals when I was 19 – I sent off my synopsis and sample chapters and Robert Hale asked to see the whole manuscript, so I sent it off.
And like Absolute Beginner 1 I waited for the acceptance. Which of course didn’t come. Lesson learned? Well almost. A whole heap of rejections later, my lesson was learned. My confidence was in shreds, but my lesson was learned.
The lesson being to always have something Out There so that when a rejection (or twelve) comes in, you still have hope. And eventually one day I did get an acceptance letter and shortly afterwards I learned lesson no. 2.
Just because you have sold 1 story, 10 stories, 100 stories, 1000 stories, you have not earned the automatic right to be published and you have not found the path to riches. You are only as good as the last story/book/screenplay you submitted.
This post is about uncertainty. Crisis of confidence. Call it what you will.
These days I sit down to write a story and halfway through a little niggling voice (the same little voice that in the beginning used to urge me to submit) starts to tell me it isn’t good enough. So I rewrite. And rewrite. And sometimes I end up scrapping it or putting it to one side because by then I have rewritten it to death. Sometimes I only write a line before deciding no one will want to read it.
And there are the novels I have planned, researched and plotted – but never really started.
I think we are all absolute beginners in a sense. Every piece of work you write is a new beginning.
There are fine lines between the eager submitter, the shrinking violet and the eternal planner. I regularly leap between them all and I’d guess quite a few of you are the same. Either brimming with confidence or drowning in doubt.
I do the same with blog posts. I write them and then delete them before they ever leave the safety of Word.
So perhaps it is time to banish uncertainty, to grasp hope and hang on to it and maybe I will start hurling posts at you willy nilly until you beg for mercy! Or perhaps I should proceed with caution and not inundate cyberspace with my ramblings. Maybe I just need to read more books on the subject…
I think really you need to be a mixture of all three, but in moderation. You have to do your research, but not to the detriment of your writing time. You have to submit, but not until your work is ready. And you have to submit full stop. Faint heart never won a box of chocolates or whatever the saying is.
If you haven’t sent anything off yet, but have been writing for a while, DO IT! There is nothing to fear. Send it off and move on. Go on. Do it now. What are you waiting for? Go on…..