Stalled and Stuttering

The other day I learnt that rejection smarts, no matter how diminished that rejection might seem. And I feel very silly for it. Do you remember the blogging conference I attended in June of this year? No, thought not. My memory is pretty dim too. Anyway, at that particular event, I met an agent, very friendly she was, and she asked for the first four chapters, comprising the first act, of my manuscript though it was still unpolished, unfinished first draft.

And so I waited and waited, the months ticking by. Early autumn, I emailed a polite reminder. No, of course she hadn’t forgotten meĀ came her upbeat response. She had in fact passed the manuscript over to her colleague; so I sent this other agent a polite, introductory email. She immediately replied, apologising for the delay, and promised to respond after the Frankfurt Book Fair. And she did. She’d really enjoyed reading it, and asked to see everything I had written so far, reassuring me not to worry it was incomplete. I had to blink twice. Really? Seriously? I thought agents only turned their attentions to the end product? One thing seemed certain; she was keen.

Can you imagine how excited I was? Over the moon and beyond. I stretched out my arms, flew out the window, away, into ego-borne fantasies of representation and book deals and chilled glasses of champagne… You know where this is sadly going don’t you?

Last week, she sent me the yang response to my yin fantasy. It was a decline. But a very kind one. She loved the writing, the pace and place of the story, all very positive feedback of which I am very grateful for. Her concern, mirrored by another agent at The Writing Festival I attended in September, was that she would struggle to find a publisher in the current market, but doubly reassured me it had nothing to do with the prose, it was the situation within publishing. Four Gigs is a little niche.

I sighed. Never mind. Pulled my socks up. Thought I’d moved on, until I attempted more words on the novel. I stalled, stuttered, ground to halt. Blocked. The fantasy of representation had understandably fueled my creativity, the fantasy now deflated, had sapped me of something vital. The oompf, the compulsion to lay down one word after the next had disappeared.

I needed to out the awkward feelings I held. An emotional blockage is a concrete hindrance to the progression of words. Well it is for me. But even a couple of downward dogs couldn’t shift it, the blockage now glued to the heart with double-sided sticky tape not even a Blue Peter presenter could tear off. I feared the only way to circumnavigate the problem was to write. About this. About feeling childish, rejected over the tiniest of set backs. The agent’s response was very complimentary. I should have been glowing from affirmation, dancing on sunshine. Sadly not. I had been declined, and that can’t be dressed up in any euphemism, not even a slice of cake (well maybe). And I’m so daft feeling sorry for myself, licking this self-made wound. It could have been much worse; a six worded reply, no feed back at all, the inbox empty, tumbleweed. A mountain had hardly crumbled here.

But today is Sunday. A new week. A dusting off. Time to get on or be damned. This is but one agent, there are so, so many more. I will wait until Four Gigs has been through the editing mill, at an almost completion, or as much as it will ever be, then send out the manuscript again. By then, I hoped to have grown a slightly thicker skin. Elephant hide.