Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

base jump

This is one of the mantras stuck above my desk – it perfectly describes the juxta position you find yourself in when out on submission.

So, in practical terms, what does ‘hoping for the best’ look like?

  • It’s recognising the little wins along the way: a beta reader’s critique, an editor’s comments, the very fact that you have written, finished, edited, polished and sent out a piece of work. It’s exposing and leaves you open to harsh comments and rejection.  This takes guts to do time after time, to dust yourself off and send again.  Celebrate your courage!
  • Allow yourself to dream. Furnish your dream with details.  Imagine a reader enjoying your book or you holding your published book in your hands.  You may think this lifts your hopes only to have them crushed but actually it gives you a clear goal – something you are specifically aiming for, even if it doesn’t happen this time. Relish your dream, take it out, dust it down and remind yourself why you are doing this.

The mathematician in me tells me the odds are long, especially in the teen market where I’m aiming this time.  But odds-wise, not sending it out is guaranteed to result in non-publication, therefore making the odds better to send than not.  So what does preparing for the worst look like?

  • Get writing the next. Do this to replace the story in your heart (and which is out on sub).  Fall in love with a new story, with new characters.  Do it as an insurance policy for your heart.
  • Get consolatory snacks in.
  • Prepare for the long haul – wait times can be excruciatingly long (many months with a few non-responders).
  • Read good comments over and over until you believe them. Busy editors (and agents) don’t waste their time saying positive things they don’t mean.
  • If there are criticisms, consider if they have a point. One rejection said my main character wasn’t sassy enough.  I found this very hard to deal with as my character was never intended to be sassy.  BUT perhaps I should have made her character clearer.  Tough lesson learned.
  • Consider limiting email-checking (hahaha – who am I kidding?!)
  • Have a plan B. This is related to writing something new.  Just like you indulged in dreaming about your manuscript being bought/read/successful, also spend time imagining what the alternative would look like.  Sometimes it’s the unknown that can be daunting.  Would you consider revising?  Have you got the germ of a great story you could explore?  Is there a course you want to get on?  There are so many options and exciting alternatives and if you plan/imagine these enough, rejection when it comes might not sting as badly.
  • Try actually doing some of your plan B! Why wait?  Have eggs in different baskets; enter competitions, try a new discipline, join a crit group, expand your writer’s world.
  • Talk to other writers/your agent to find out what the norm is – it maybe that a particular editor is known for her harsh comments, or being a consistent non-responder, or will ask for long-shot R&Rs. Knowing these things will help protect your mental health.

I blog regularly about submission, waiting and rejections because they feature heavily in the life of a writer, even the successful ones.  Also, with the increasingly competitive market, it can be as tricky to sell your second, third or fourth book, so having a robust attitude early on will stand you in good stead for when you are only shortlisted for a Costa/Carnegie!

So if you want to fly, leap off the cliff, but make sure your parachute is packed correctly and strapped to your back.


One thought on “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

  1. Great post, Kate. Love your description of beginning another writing project as “an insurance policy for the heart”. I wish I had read something like this when I was subbing my MS. I got bogged down in the subbing process and forgot the joy of the writing itself.


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