Submission, submission, submission

This morning, I wiped away a tear when I re-read my post last March  about the first time I submitted my three chapters and synopsis to agents. I think I was partly touched by my cheerful optimism and partly sad that I had fallen into the classic mistake of submitting too early.

Looking through my file of reply letters, I saw all the agents had replied, even if only by formulaic letter. Some had made complimentary remarks, one was handwritten, one had asked to read the full manuscript (which got me more than a little excited!) but the result was a universal ‘No, thanks’.

I needed answers.

So, I took action.

With some trepidation and after a thorough exchange of emails, I sent my baby, plus synopsis, a note of writerly ambitions and a selection of agents’ comments off to the redoubtable Nicola Morgan‘s Pen2Publication writing consultancy.

Brave or what?

She was characteristically bracing, but specific:
“At the end, you will see a list of things I think you need to do to it to make it good enough for quality publication, or for success in self-published form. Sometimes I recommend that a writer simply leaves this first novel as a practice-run and starts again. I’m not saying that with you, because I think you have an enjoyable idea with potential; but don’t underestimate what needs to be done to it.”

The following conclusion spurred me on and has remained hovering in the forefront of my brain for the past year:
“But I don’t want you to forget that there were also good things about this, and promising aspects, especially in your rich imagination of […]. If I didn’t think it was worth working on, I’d have suggested you begin a new book but I think there is enough in here that shouldn’t be lost. No idea is ever wasted. I believe that if you take these things on board you have every chance of being able to create a genuinely interesting, exciting and unusual story – unusual in a way that could be publishable.”

So I did. I got the machete out and chopped 30,000 words of fluff and dough and added in tighter, tougher and kick-ass ones.

I did an inspiring, but practical Arvon Foundation course on commercial fiction, I read books, blogs and articles until my eye-balls fried, I attended the Festival of Writing at York this year. Most of all, I interacted with other writers and read, read read.

All the time, I was editing, polishing, agonising. On one run-through, I got rid of 28 ‘felt’s (Smug or what?).

Now I’m submitting again because I want to be published. This time, I think it’s a much better product. And out there, I know there’s somebody who just might agree.

8 comments to Submission, submission, submission

  • @slangular

    Good luck, Alison! It sounds as if you’ve done all the right things.

  • alison

    Thanks, Wendy, for your good wishes.

    I think every writer comes up against a brick wall and has to think how to get over (or around) it.

    You have to persist as well as work hard. This is a good lesson to learn 😉

  • It would have been so easy to get disheartened and give up. Really admire you for commitment and determination. Good luck! You deserve it. Here’s one buyer when it is published!

  • alison

    That’s a lovely comment, Sue. And thank you for being my first sale.

    It’s cliché, but if you want something, you have to put a lot of work in. Whether it leads to representation is another question, but I feel a bit better prepared this time.

  • Cat

    Wow! Paws crossed for you!

  • alison

    Thank you, Cat.

    But it’s a rocky path… 😉

  • I admire your staying power. I have three manuscripts in the archive files of my computer. I too shudder at the thought that I sent each one out too soon and to too many publishers at once. Glad that Nicola’s services have been helpful. It’s not easy taking criticism, is it. Keeping my fingers crossed that this time it’ll be snatched up!

  • alison

    Thanks, Rosalind, that’s very kind.
    Like any profession, it’s a hard slog. We do our best, but we need to train ourselves and keep the CPD up. I have a regular critique partner and some terrific beta readers.

    Learning to take criticism is a great skill. See my post at
    It also helps when you are giving it to others; you can be compassionate as well as firm and direct.