Sometimes I’m in the loop and it’s a fine place. Sometimes all is well, everyone seems to like what I’m doing, everyone seems to get it and appreciate it, and I earn money. It’s splendid.
Once in a while, I’m so in the loop that I can see its periphery somewhere on the horizon as I turn. I’m right at the centre of all that’s good and wondrous. I can do no wrong, and I know it. I love life when it’s like that. I love the work when it’s going well, when everything seems to fit, when praise comes from all directions, when deadlines are met and expectations are exceeded. It’s a little like magic; there’s alchemy at work.
Then there’s the other thing. Then there’re the times when I’m so far out of the loop that the loop is a dot to me, and I’m out in the wilderness. Often, I don’t feel any differently about the work; often it all feels as if it’s going jolly well; often, I like what I’m doing and think it’s pretty good. At those times other people seem to be the problem. When I’m out of the loop no one seems to like what I do, no one seems to get it, everyone’s a critic, and I can’t seem to catch a break.
That, my friends, is the writer’s lot. I am no exception. I am just like everyone else who has ever done this job. The bottom line is that all writers have their work rejected. The good and the great and the bloody incomparable have had their work rejected, sometimes dozens of times before the right buyer or the right time has come or the right version of the manuscript has emerged. This is not a job for the faint of heart.
The work of all art forms is subjective. Not everyone is going to like what an artist makes, and that means that not everyone is going to like what I write. Some of the time that is going to include my own people. Sometimes that is going to include everyone and anyone from my beta-readers to my agent to my editor, and, god-help-me, to my prospective publishers.
Some of those people matter more than others, of course. It’s rare for all of my beta-readers to love something, although it has happened; that’s fine. If my lovely agent doesn’t like something, and that happens, from time to time, then she’s not going to try to sell it. If my editor doesn’t like it, there’s going to be a lot of hard work ahead. If prospective publishers don’t like it, they’re not going to buy it.
In theory, of course, you only need one publisher, although two is better if you want any kind of bidding war.
In this business, the people with the real power are agents and editors... And what power!
If you can please all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, how do you go about pleasing one person, and who should that one person be?
Honestly? I’ve got a theory about that.
It might sound like madness, and perhaps it is, but I can’t help thinking that the only way I’m going to produce my best work is to please myself. I don’t think there’s any way to second guess what any other person is going to like on any given day. I don’t think there’s any way to second guess what the zeitgeist is going to be in any given period of time six months hence, and if it was possible to predict either of those things I don’t think there’s any satisfaction in trying to produce work to order.
Of course, there’s a good chance I’m probably wrong, but, right now, I’m so far out of the loop, the loop is a dot to me, and yet I’m sticking to my guns. That ought to count for something, surely?