Keeping motivated to write
by Mina Bancheva
I find your website and your answer to my previous question very helpful so I am writing again.
I completed an MA in Creative Writing with distinction last October and had excellent feedback from my tutors. As part of the course we put together an anthology consisting of all the students contributions( 2000 words each) and this was officially launched a couple of weeks ago and was attended by a number of agents.
Contrary to my (and everybody's) expectations, there wan't much interest in my contribution while many others were approached by agents.
My book is set during the Cold War and is the story of a young Bulgarian woman who is asked to spy on her British husband by the Bulgarian Secret Service. It deals with the impact this has on her marriage and her relationships with her daughter and her family. My tutors thought there would be a lot of interest in the topic but that hasn't been the case and the experience has left me disheartened and demotivated. I have one more chapter to finishing my manuscript and my heart just isn't in it any more.
Your comments would be much appreciated!
First, congratulations on finishing your MA! That is quite an accomplishment.
Next, I wish I could say that this one event doesn't matter in a way that you would believe it wholeheartedly, but I know that would be asking a lot. Nonetheless, there are many good reasons why you should simply shrug it off, finish the book, and go query some other agents or publishers. Here are a few...
1. They may simply not have been the right agents for your book. Every agent has her own interests, contacts, and expertise. They feel confident about their judgment and ability to sell in certain genres and not others, so they will not represent books outside their area. This is no reflection on your writing.
Most good agents have more manuscripts sent to them than they have time to read, so for them to take the time to go to this event might mean they were looking for a particular type of manuscript to fill a niche demand. Quality may not have been the only criteria.
2. Timing/Luck. Sometimes you may be lucky enough to have written the kind of book publishers are buying right now (which may barely be on shelves yet), but other times you are not.
Books in a hot genre are much easier to sell, regardless of quality. Great books in an unpopular or saturated market may not sell (or perhaps not until the market cools).
Similarly, sometimes an agent is currently flogging a book similar to yours and feels they can't represent both out of fairness. They may not tell you this. Again, it's a matter of luck and timing and is no reflection on your writing.
3. Rejection is normal. Okay, there are a few people who sell their first book on their first try and we all hate them for it, just like we hate lottery winners. But the truth is that they are a tiny, tiny minority. Most writers collect stacks of rejection slips (or emails) throughout their career. JK Rowling, Stephen King, and JRR Tolkein (to name just a few) had their first books rejected many times and went on to sell millions of copies.
Sometimes rejection is the fault of the writing, but often it simply reflects the difficulty of finding the right agent or publisher for your book at the right time. You have to learn to be thick-skinned and not take rejection personally. The fact that your tutors think your writing is good shows that you may just have to put some effort into finding the right agent/publisher on your own.
4. Ask yourself why you are pursuing a writing career? Is it because you wanted instant fame and fortune (in which case, the odds are stacked heavily against you) or is it because you love writing? If you love writing, try not to spoil your fun by making external validation the be all and end all. Make the writing itself the rewarding part and treat the business end as a necessary evil--something you do so that one day you'll be able to spend more hours writing (because your writing will pay some bills).
At the same time, there's nothing wrong with getting other forms of external validation. Do readings. Share bits of your work online or with friends. Ask other writers to give you critiques.
Most of all, once you have finished the manuscript and made the final draft as good as you can, start sending out queries to agents and publishers who specialize in your type of book.
I recommend doing multiple simultaneous submissions. If the right agent is number twenty on your list, you don't want the first nineteen rejections to discourage you.