Archive for the ‘rejection’ Tag

The Ten Commandments of Writing #10: Thou Shalt Never, Ever Give Up

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I get quite cross with people who imply that I write ‘for fun’. Or ‘for pleasure’. This generally comes into a conversation where I’m trying to explain why the writing is not my full-time profession. I’m trying to explain that I don’t make enough money from the writing to do it for a living, and so they say, “oh so you do it for fun then.”

There is nothing fun about writing. Yes there are moments of exhilaration, like when the WIP is going well and words are flowing, when you’re in that stage when you can re-read the words you’ve written and think to yourself, “actually this is pretty good. And I created it.” But you know this is going to be followed by a period of crashing self-doubt, when you are absolutely convinced that everything you’ve written is a steaming pile of turds and you should give up deluding yourself that you’re a writer and go and spend your time watching TV instead. This bit of the process is not fun. Neither is the constant lurching from self-confidence to self-loathing that I am convinced absolutely every writer, no matter how successful they are, experiences.

No, we don’t do it for fun. So why do we do it? It’s more a need, an urge. We need to write to keep on living, the same way we need to breathe.

You need to remember this once you have accepted the fact that you are a writer, because the road will not be smooth. There will be rocky patches. There will be times when you want to crawl under the bed covers and never come out again. Every time you submit something to an editor, you will spend the next few hours, or days, or weeks, on tenterhooks. You will be checking your email every two minutes to see if you’ve had a response yet. When you discover there isn’t one, you will experience conflicting feelings of disappointment and faint hope, because no response at least means no rejection. Yet.

And then when the email finally comes you’ll be afraid to open it, trying to put off the inevitable rejection and the crashing self-doubt that follows for as long as possible.

But then one day it won’t be a rejection. It will be an acceptance. And it will all be worth it. On the dark days, it can be tempting to just pack it all in. But it’s important to keep on going. When each rejection comes, give yourself a few days to pick yourself and dust yourself off, and then send the story back out into the world again. And carry on working on the next one. Whatever you do, you have to keep at it, because being a writer is in your psyche and no matter how hard it can be sometimes, it will always be who you are.




Riding the Rejection Train

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

I am currently in the position of having two completed manuscripts and no publisher.  One is a horror novel, the other is the second book in the series about amateur sleuth Shara Summers.

I’ve started submitting these two and I get a strange feeling of deja vu.  Between 2007 and 2009 I also had two novels to submit – one horror (SUFFER THE CHILDREN) and one crime (DEATH SCENE), the first Shara Summers book.  Then Lyrical accepted SUFFER THE CHILDREN, followed by DEATH SCENE, and the rest is history.

But now I find myself riding the submission/rejection train again, for the first time in quite a while.  Though actually I think ‘rejection roundabout’ is a better metaphor.  You feel like you’re going round and round in a circle.

I can categorically say it doesn’t get easier.  I’ve only just started this journey again, with each novel being sent out to only one publisher so far.  Unfortunately it happened that the responses arrived at the same time, in spite one novel being sent out quite a while before the other.  The rejection for the crime novel arrived on Monday; the rejection email for the horror novel on Tuesday.  So it’s not been a good week.

Before I was published I held this fantastical idea that being published would make it all better.  That once I had one novel accepted, everything else I wrote would automatically get accepted, and I would never again worry that what I was writing wasn’t good enough.  But that’s not the way it works.  Just because someone accepts one novel doesn’t necessarily mean they – or anyone else for that matter – will like everything else you write.  And you don’t stop with the writer insecurities.  Instead of fearing I’ll never be published, now I fear that the first two novels got published as a bit of a fluke, my creativity is spent and I’ll never write anything of publishable quality again.

But the same rules apply to all writers, no matter how much or how little experience you have.  When the rejections come, you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again.  So I’ve crossed the first names off the submission list for these two manuscripts, and getting ready to go down the list.

For the time being, though, I’m still smarting from the double whammy of being rejected twice in two days.  I’ll be over here in the corner for a while, quietly whimpering.

One Track Mind

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Whenever anyone asks me when I started writing I say, “age six”.

That was the age I was when I learned how to form words on a page. That’s when I began to learn how to write my stories down. I had been telling them before then. I was making up stories in my head from the age I learned how to think. From when I first began to talk.

I was about ten when I started telling people who asked me what I wanted to be when I left school that I was going to be a writer. I was eleven when I wrote my first novel.

I don’t think I was particularly advanced. I just believe that I was born to be a writer. That’s all I ever wanted to be. In truth, it’s all I’ve ever been any good at. I was always hopeless at sports – I can’t run, I can’t catch, I am clumsy, and I have absolutely no hand-eye co-ordination. I was always last to be picked for the teams in gym class.

I’m no good at crafts – knitting, sewing, and the like. It’s that hand-eye co-ordination again. I can’t cook. I can’t cultivate plants – they all die on me. I’m not even very good at computer games. Yes I like them, and I play them a lot, but my aim in taking out those zombies is abysmal and it takes several goes to get through a level. I have no maternal instincts – when I play The Sims my virtual children get taken away by social services. Lord knows what would happen if I was let loose on any real-life children. It’s probably best for everyone if we don’t find out.

The only thing I’ve ever been able to do is write stories. It’s the only thing I’ve ever felt I’m any good at. And at particularly dark times of my life, I’ve thought writing stories is the only justification for my existence. The only thing I contribute to the world.

Being a writer. This has been my focus for my whole life. I had a goal to be a published novelist by age 30. My 30th birthday came and went. No publishing deal wasn’t for lack of trying – I had two completed novels by then that I had been submitting for years. I decided to modify my goal, and aim for a book contract by age 40. As 40 approached I thought I would have to modify it again. But then, a couple of months before my 40th birthday, the contract from Lyrical for SUFFER THE CHILDREN arrived.

This was, as I have mentioned before, the beginning of the story instead of being the end. I have now had three books published and I am proud of that, but there are times when it’s not enough. I have met authors who make enough money from their writing to get by day to day. That’s not so for me. Since the day I got the first cheque for “The Top Floor” in 1989 from FEAR magazine up until my last royalty statement, a period of 24 years, the gross total of money I have earned in all that time from writing equates to less than what I earn in a month in the day job. Sometimes I fear I am a mere drop in a very big ocean in the writing world.  I haven’t even found my books on any pirate e-books sites. Let me make it clear that I fiercely disapprove of e-book piracy. It’s stealing, from people for whom every penny counts. Every time I see a message on a forum from a writer saying something along the lines of, “this new pirate site has appeared, I found my books on it, be sure you check for yours and get them to take it down. What cheek!” I diligently go look for my books. To date I have never found any of them on a pirate site. Now, writers get very upset when their books are pirated, and understandably so. But when you’re not even considered important enough for pirates to think your books are worth stealing, you can’t help but feel rather insignificant.

I would like to be able to make enough money from writing to do it full time. I’d like to land a deal with a publisher who can get my books into Waterstones or Barnes & Noble or another major book store chain. I’d like to be approached by Con organisers to be a guest or a panel member instead of my going to them and begging.

When you’ve had one focus all your life and it always feels a little bit out of reach, you do sometimes feel like you’re the donkey with the carrot on the stick tied to its ears, constantly trying to get to something you will never be able to reach. But still, you don’t give up.

Maybe these things will happen one day. But maybe they never will. For now, I guess I just keep reaching for that carrot. Because I am a writer. That’s what I am, first and foremost. Whether anyone knows or cares who I am in the future doesn’t really matter – I know who I am. I am a writer. That will never change.

Monday’s Friend: Carolyn Evans-Dean

Today I am pleased to welcome writer Carolyn Evans-Dean to the blog.

“Excuse me for saying so, but your baby is ugly.”
By Carolyn Evans-Dean

“Which one is yours?”

A grin spread across my face. “It’s the one in the center.”

Bystander CoverHe leaned forward and adjusted his glasses. “Excuse me for saying so, but your baby is ugly.”

I began to sputter as the man pointed to my creation.

“It’s absolutely hideous!” Out of nowhere a little old lady with a walking cane had materialized to voice her opinion.

We’d been peering through a window at the little blessings that resided within. It was inconceivable that someone would say those words to a woman in such an emotional state! I’d just given birth to something most wonderful and was not under the influence of any drugs to dull the pain inflicted by rude comments. My perfectly-formatted bundle of joy was featured prominently in the display window of a well-known bookstore.  While I struggled to assemble a scathing reply, I glanced down and realized that with the exception of a pair of tennis shoes, I was naked. Then I woke up.

Variations of that scenario played out in my head for months as I edited my first work of fiction.  The process was labor intensive and fraught with tension. What if no one bought it? What if no one liked it? What if someone thought that my brainchild was ugly? I’d already spent more time cultivating the story in my mind than a human mama spends nurturing a child in the womb. How do authors send their books out into the literary world for others to critique?

Fear of rejection keeps a lot of fiction authors from sharing their talents with the world. They’re always willing to accept the accolades, but not everyone is mentally prepared to receive their first negative critique. A bad review can actually be a blessing and should trigger a few moments of reflection. This blog post is focused on works of fiction, but much of it could be applied to non-fiction, too.  Below, you’ll find a series of questions that can assist in evaluating a negative book review.

Did the reviewer bother to read the book?

This is usually a knee-jerk reaction to a bad review and may or may not be productive. It is important to examine whether or not you set up an unreasonable expectation in the reader’s mind, though.  If your book is listed in a genre that doesn’t quite fit, then the reader might have been expecting something a bit more mainstream within the genre. If the blurb or book description neglected to provide enough information, then that could be problematic, too. Experience has taught some readers to expect a certain outcome in the storyline. If your story deviates from the norm, it can be helpful to mention that without giving the plot away.

Accept the fact that your book will not appeal to every reader. In fact, I can’t think of a solitary writer that is enjoyed by everyone. It is important to identify your potential audience and market to them, rather than attempt to sell your book to the wrong crowd. Many bad reviews stem from attracting the wrong customer through poor marketing. Marketing 101 teaches that an unhappy customer is far more likely to leave a review than a happy one.

Is there any truth to the criticism?

This is a question that you ask yourself once you’ve calmed down. Compare the review to your manuscript.  If you’re not a very good speller or you struggle to find an appropriate adjective to describe a scene, then this might be an appropriate time for you to assess your abilities and create a path to improve your skills or hire a professional to perform those functions. In the digital age of e-books, you may even have an opportunity to make corrections and resubmit the book in just a few steps.

Is there something that you should have done differently?

Of course! Hindsight is always 20/20 and we will always discover things that can be improved upon. A negative review can highlight flaws in your writing process. If story continuity is an issue, then creating an outline can help to ensure that the plot is advanced in a logical manner, without backtracking and lapses.  For a complex storyline with lots of characters, creating your own wiki can be helpful. I like to write an entire background biography for each character. Characters should be “real” to their creators and invade everyday thoughts as though they were old friends and well known foes. Ask yourself, “What would he/she do in this situation?”

Can you shake off the criticism and write again?

If the majority of the reviews are positive and you have a few blighting comments, then learn what you can from the critics…and move on.

Be honest in your assessment. Does the majority of your work receive scathing reviews?  Then it might be prudent to scale back. If you are writing because you fancy yourself to be the next great novelist, you might want to reconsider your career ambitions or redouble your efforts to improve your skill.

If you are writing simply because you enjoy writing, then you should continue to do so. Your only fans might be family members who receive a copy of your latest book as a holiday gift. They are still eagerly awaiting the next publication from their relative, the writer.

So, when do you stop writing? It is only acceptable to stop writing if it brings no personal joy or if it interferes with something that is more important in your life.

Did the reviewer even bother to read the <censored> book?!?!

I thought that I’d already covered this one, but find that there is more to say on the subject. Disgruntled readers aside, there are some people that are just mean-spirited. They will kick puppies and take candy from toddlers. They will also tell you that your baby is ugly. Not because it is true, but because they can. I imagine that they find reasons to complain about many things. Don’t take it personally. Some reviewers make it obvious that they never read the book and that they generally hate everything good in life…including your book!

Sooo… How do you handle negative book reviews?

Carolyn Evans-Dean Headshot-1

About the Author

Born in the snowbelt of NY State, Carolyn Evans-Dean was raised in a small town where being prepared for emergencies was a way of life. After moving to the city, she shed her preparedness mindset and embraced the easy access lifestyle of 24 hour grocery stores and fast food…until a regional disaster caused her to re-examine her choices and high-tail it back to the sanity and security of preparedness.

Along the way, she decided to share the sensible preparedness and homesteading mindset with other women in the form of a series of novels about a small town that is floundering after devastating terrorist attacks rock the United States.

Bystander: A Tale of the End of the World as SHE Knew It! and the sequel Christmas In Bystander are both available at or on her own website

She enjoys channeling the voices in her head to bring a unique and diverse cast of characters to her readers.

Connect with Carolyn:

Twitter: @BystanderBooks




(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

When I was a little girl, there was a game I used to like to play with my dad. We called it the ‘Hand Stand Game’. He would lie on his back on the floor, arms above his head, palms up to the ceiling. I would plant a foot in each one of his hands. Holding onto my feet he would slowly raise his hands, then sit up, then get up into a standing position, all the while with me balancing on his hands. Besides what it says about my dad’s upper body strength (I know I can’t stand from a lying position without using my hands), I think we gave my mother heart failure whenever we played this game. As a four-year-old, I ended up pretty high off the ground. And yet I did this with confidence, and without fear. Until I got to about nine, and then suddenly I lost my nerve and I couldn’t do it anymore. I had acquired fear.

Fear is a learned emotion. We don’t possess it as children. Two things teach it to us. Firstly, we learn fear through consequence. If you get stung as a small child by a wasp, you learn to be afraid of wasps. If you touch a flame and burn your finger, you learn than fire is to be feared. The other way we learn fear is because the adults around us teach it to us. “Don’t play too close to the water; you’ll fall in and drown,” they say. “Don’t climb to the top of the climbing frame. You might fall off and hurt yourself.” The concept of falling hadn’t occurred to us before then. But once someone plants the idea in our head, it’s there forever.

It is the same with writers. Why do so many of us get discouraged? We fear failure, perhaps. As a child, I happily wrote story after story. I wasn’t really thinking about whether or not they were any good. I wrote them because I wanted to, and I didn’t really mind who read them. But then I hit puberty and my self-confidence took a pummelling. What if the stories I wrote really weren’t any good? Like George McFly in “Back To The Future”, I decided it was better not to let anyone read them, than have to deal with rejection.

I had to overcome this, of course, because I’d decided I wanted to be a published writer. I had to face my fear of rejection and start sending stuff out. I learned that rejection hurts, but it doesn’t kill you. I also sought to learn how I could improve my writing, and thus increase its chances of acceptance.

I think it’s this acquired fear that holds many of us back. We fear what we’ve written isn’t any good. If you’ve got one book published, you then fear that you’ll never write another one of publishable quality. You fear your book won’t sell. You fear you’ll never finish the one you’re working on. There are so many things that we fear. But we have to push on despite that fear.

So we are afraid of falling. That shouldn’t hold us back. Yes, we might fall. But if we do, we can get up and try again. Fear of falling shouldn’t stop us from the climb. After all, we might not fall at all, and in addition discover that the view at the top is spectacular.

British Vs. American

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

DEATH SCENE has been out only a couple of weeks, and I will have no idea, until July’s royalty statement arrives, how many copies it sold in its first month of release. I know I’ve had a few sales, because the colleagues and family members who have bought it have started to report back.

One of the most consistent comments I’ve had so far from my British readers is that all the American spellings are annoying. It is true that Brits get annoyed by ‘Americanisms’ (as this article on the BBC site today demonstrates!). But my publishers are American, so house style dictates American spellings. It does, however, demonstrate that although the UK and the US both officially speak English, anyone who’s experienced both knows that American English and British English are, in fact, two entirely separate languages.

DEATH SCENE racked up 31 rejections before being accepted by Lyrical Press. I sent it to agents in America and the UK, and to small press publishers that accepted unsolicted manuscripts on both sides of the Atlantic. Many of the rejections were generic, but some of them had personalised notes. The most common reason from UK agents for turning it down was that contemporary amateur sleuths do not sell in the UK.

Many UK publishers seem to feel that the British reading public want gritty crime thrillers or historical ‘whodunnits’ featuring amateur sleuths. Whether or not this is true is irrelevant – publishers will buy what they think will sell.

It has dawned on me, however, that Shara might fare better in America than in Britain. Amateur sleuths remain fairly popular there. Whereas the only amateur sleuths in books written by British writers I can think of are all set somewhere in the past.

And there is the added bonus that Shara, as a Canadian living in Britain, offers her perspective on the differences between North America and the UK. Hopefully people who don’t live in Britain will connect with that.

At this early stage, I still have no idea how DEATH SCENE will do. But if Shara does prove to be more popular with Americans than Brits, I will see that as a blessing in disguise. It might give hubby and I an excuse to plan that road trip across the States we’ve always talked about doing.

Who’d Be a Writer?

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Today, I’d like to share a joke with you.

A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.

She decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.

“Oh my,” said the writer. “Let me see heaven now.”

A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.

“Wait a minute,” said the writer. “This is just as bad as hell!”

“Oh no, it’s not,” replied an unseen voice. “Here, your work gets published.”

This is an old joke, but I like it because it rings true. No one sane would voluntarily choose to be a writer, and put themselves into this perpetual torment we all live in. The stress and anguish of rewriting and revisions. The depression that follows each rejection. The feelings of worthlessness that seems to hit every writer on a regular basis, making them doubt their ability to write anything that’s remotely publishable.

We don’t choose to be writers, we just are. The need to write is as inherent as the need to breathe. So we deal with it, somehow. We write, and we deal with the ups and the downs. Those of us with day jobs somehow find a way to fit the writing and all it entails in around the day job. Sometimes I envy my colleagues who roll into work a bit later, insisting they physically can’t get out of bed before 8am. Sometimes I wish I couldn’t either, but my 5:30am starts on writing mornings prove that actually, I can, even if I don’t like it much.

Being a writer is not a career choice, it’s just what we are. I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t a writer. On the whole, in spite of aforementioned downers, I am proud to be so.

Writing Processes – Part 11: The Evolution of Rejection

I joined the road paved with rejection slips in 1987, when I started sending out my early horror novel TERROR IN TANNER’S FIELD (mentioned in an earlier post). So by the time I received the publishing contract for SUFFER THE CHILDREN last year, I had been travelling that rejection road for over twenty years. And I’ve noticed some changes in that time.

I learned fairly early on that there was no point in sending your manuscript direct to publishers. You had to have an agent. I also learned that between UK and US agents, there was a difference in submission requirements. UK agents want the first three chapters and a synopsis. If they like what they see they will ask to see the full manuscript; if they don’t, they return the pages to you in the required SAE. There is one extra step with US agents, as they want a query letter first, then a partial if they like the query, then eventually the full manuscript (if you’re lucky).

In the early days, everyone wanted hard copy. I have spent many a lunch hour over the last twenty years queuing up in the Post Office, with my envelope containing my first three chapters or my short story, unsealed so when I got to the counter I could get it weighed to find out what the postage was going to be, get the equivalent amount for return postage, stick the return postage on the SAE before sealing the envelope, sticking the other stamps on the outside envelope and dropping the whole thing in the post box.

Having the pages returned to you, though, is often just a formality. When your pages come back to you in the SAE, they are generally in less than pristine condition and not really fit to be sent out to anyone else. After all, you don’t want to make a bad impression with agents and editors by submitting dog-eared and coffee-stained pages.

Submitting to international agents was even more of a challenge. Once upon a time you could send an international reply coupon, but over the years they became unpopular. It became easier to buy stamps whenever I went to the US, to use on SAEs when I submitted to American agents. But because I only visit the US once every couple of years I tended to stockpile the stamps, which would generally mean US postage would increase before I’d used all the stamps up, resulting in the necessity of trying to get hold of a load of 5-cent ones to make sure my SAE had the correct postage on.

But then, a few years ago, things started to change. We began to see an increase in small, independent publishers, who were happy to look at unsolicited manuscripts from new writers. Often they wanted to look at the whole thing, not just three chapters. Sometimes they were even happy to have the file sent as an email attachment.

The new writer is no longer limited to sending their manuscript to agents. The number of independent publishers continues to grow, and most of them are still happy to look at unagented writers. And nowadays it’s not just the new publishing companies that will accept email submissions. Many agents will accept emails also (but not all – there is still a need to check the individual requirements carefully before submitting).

Email submissions are far better for the writer. No more queuing up in the post office; no more small fortunes being spent on stamps, printer ink, paper and envelopes.

There’s an old saying about most writers having enough rejection slips to wallpaper their office with. I still have that old file, labelled ‘rejections’, but I haven’t added anything to it for a while. But not because I haven’t been getting rejections. My most recent rejections are all saved on the PC, in a sub-folder of my email inbox called ‘rejections’.

And this is another advantage of how technology has made submissions better. Electronic files don’t bulk out the folder the way paper does. If you can’t see the rejection folder getting visibly fatter, you get far less depressed.

Writing Processes – Part 5: First Acceptance

When I finished school in 1988, I moved back to England, and began in earnest my quest to get my short stories published. I learned two things fairly quickly. First of all, the short horror story market was a rich vein (no pun intended) in the late 1980s, and there were a lot of magazines around – pro and semi pro – publishing the sort of nasty little stories I was writing.

Secondly, I was now in the grown-up world and things were very different. As a minor, everyone had been terribly supportive of my writing – presumably not wishing to crush my fragile adolescent soul. But once I passed the age of 18, I was an adult – at least in British law – and I was just one of many people writing and submitting. I was not a special little snowflake, and my form rejection letters reflected that.

It was a harsh lesson, but I’d been researching the whole process of submitting, and I’d come to understand that one must expect rejection, and not take it personally. I’d also been researching where to send my stories. One day browsing the newsagents in my lunch break (as I’d left school and entered adulthood, I’d also entered the scary world of Working for a Living), I came across a magazine called FEAR. As well as articles and reviews on books and movies in the horror genre – and covers that would offend most people of a fragile nature – they featured short stories by new writers in every issue. Aha, a market for me, I thought, and after buying and studying an issue, I sent to them a story called “The Top Floor”. I’d written it at age 17, and it was about a young man who goes to visit his friend in his new apartment, and stumbles across a ghostly re-enactment of a murderer who butchered his family in the apartment block years before.

It was a story with flaws, there is no doubt about that. But it was set on Friday October 13 (yes, it was also full of clichés) and 1989 – the year I submitted it to FEAR – was a year that October 13 happened to fall on a Friday. I think this appealed to the editors. They accepted the story, and it appeared in the Hallowe’en issue that year. They also paid me £50 for this.

I admit I got a little smug. I was 19, I’d just sold a story for what was, I thought at the time, a considerable amount of money, and I thought I’d got it made.

Sadly, reality swiftly crept in. That £50 was a lot of money. It’s more than I’ve ever made, collectively, from my writing in the 21 years since then, including all the royalties I’ve had from SUFFER THE CHILDREN.

I learned I couldn’t give up the day job if I was to continue writing. But I also learned that what I was writing was publishable, and it paid to be persistent.

The rejection letters continued to come, but I framed that first acceptance letter and to this day it hangs on the wall in my ‘writing corner’, to remind me of the day I first became a ‘proper’ writer.

Writing Processes – Part 4: Going to Market

I discovered horror in grade 8, when I was 14. I picked up DIFF’RENT SEASONS in the school library. I enjoyed that so much I went looking for more. The next King book I read was CARRIE. That was possibly a turning point. I identified with Carrie, the high school loser with no friends. In fact I rather wished I possessed her ability to instigate the violent and painful death of everyone who gave her a hard time. In any case, I was hooked on King.

I was also in Mrs Riepert’s English class that year, and we were given an assignment to write a horror story. We started with brainstorming titles. As everyone called out titles, mine came suddenly, unprompted, into my mind: TERROR IN TANNER’S FIELD. It’s probably the only time in my writing career I have come up with the title before the story – usually the title comes to me at the end. TERROR IN TANNER’S FIELD was about ten teenagers who go on a camping trip, and unearth an evil entity that possesses them and makes them murder each other.

I had to read the story out loud in front of the class and it seemed to go down well with my classmates, in particular my science lab partner, Rob Vukovic, who was a fan of the genre. He told me repeatedly that year I ought to write more horror. He’s probably not given me a thought in 25 years or more, but I guess I was listening, because by the time I got to high school I was a horror convert.

I decided to turn TERROR IN TANNER’S FIELD into a novel. I finished it when I was 17. I didn’t have a computer in those days (we are talking circa 1987 here). The first draft of TITF was written in pencil, as was my process by then, and then I redrafted it in pen. But my uncle had one of those newfangled devices called a word processor, and he volunteered to type it out for me. I handed over the handwritten pages, and he duly returned the manuscript to me in the form of three printouts and a 5 1/4-inch floppy disk (remember those?) with the files on it.

TERROR IN TANNER’S FIELD became the first novel I sent out into the big wide world. I really had no idea where to start. I went to the library and picked up a few books in the teenage horror range – which at that point was still a strange new genre – and looked up the publisher’s address on the title page. That’s where I sent my manuscript- in its entirety. I didn’t know about the etiquette of query letters, or sending only the first three chapters. I’m not even sure if I remembered return postage, although older and wiser people may have pointed out to me the wisdom of doing this, if I wanted the precious package returned.

Those initial queries came back fairly swiftly, with kind and encouraging rejection letters that basically said the publisher was always pleased to hear from young people who liked to write (I had mentioned my age in the cover letter; the publishers had all decided to be gentle), and my writing showed promise, but I needed a bit more practice before it would be ready for publication.

After racking up a few rejection letters, I started to wonder if maybe I was aiming too high. It was getting expensive to keep sending the novel out, and not many publishers were dealing with teenage horror in those days.

Then I thought, perhaps I should lower the bar. So I put TERROR IN TANNER’S FIELD in a drawer, and looked towards my short stories instead. Perhaps it would be easier to start small, and get some of those published first, my 17-year-old self reasoned.

Was I successful in this endeavour? Join me in Part 5 to find out!