This week, my new adult novel, first in a big new series called Trinity, is coming out.
I’m going to be celebrating even more than usual, because this one’s had a long hard road to publication, with nearly four years and several rejections before it was accepted. Even though I’m a well-established author with many books to my name, it looked like this one was fated to remain homeless. ‘Too different’ seemed to be the verdict. A mix of urban fantasy, romance and conspiracy thriller, set in modern Russia, it was outside of my usual genre of YA fiction, and clearly also outside the comfort zone of many publishers.
But I was unwilling to give up.
I really believed in this book. Writing it had been a challenging, enriching and extraordinary experience and its characters and world haunted me.
It was a risky book to write, in all sorts of ways, but deeply thrilling, and I knew there were readers out there who would love it like I did. So I hung on, and in between writing other books, I kept revisiting the novel.
I sent it to good friends who are also writers and listened carefully to their advice and suggestions, and was greatly heartened by the fact they were immediately gripped by the story. I refined it, sculpted it, trying to re-read it with fresh eyes. When we went back to Russia the second time, in 2012, (this time, knowing enough Russian to keep up basic conversations) I rewrote entire paragraphs and even chapters, folding in new impressions of the country and culture into it, waiting for the right moment to send it out once again.
And then that moment came, and so did the right publisher. Joel Naoum of Momentum Books read it, loved it, and ‘got it’ immediately. It was such a thrill, reading his email about my ‘amazing manuscript’ , talking to him in detail about it, and later, meeting the rest of the Momentum team who clearly loved the book, and the idea of the series, as much as he did.
I’ve had a lot of acceptances over the twenty-four years I’ve been a published author, with more than sixty books to my name. And every book is special to me. But this one feels especially sweet, and sitting at my desk writing the sequel as I wait for the first book’s release, I am filled with deep satisfaction. Trinity has found the best possible home. It was well worth the wait.
This experience taught me once again why, as a writer, you should not give up.
Whether you’re aspiring or established, there are moments when self-belief falters.
There are times when you feel that no matter how hard you try, no-one ‘gets’ what you are doing.
Of course there are also sometimes manuscripts that aren’t quite what they might be—and some ideas that don’t quite take flesh. But you learn to recognise that, and move on, for not giving up doesn’t mean being arrogantly stubborn, or wilfully blind to the faults in your manuscript. It means that you learn to recognise those manuscripts, those ideas that you must not be talked out of by publishers’ rejection notes or your own wavering.
You learn to listen more to your instinct as you get more experienced, and you also get more patient—you learn that there are in fact more than one way to skin a cat, as the saying goes.
Sometimes, a manuscript needs to be rethought, reshaped; other times it can be folded into a new idea; and occasionally, it just needs time. Time, and continued belief in it, and a willingness to keep at it. Persistence, I was told when I was a beginner, is one of the most important weapons in the writer’s armory. That isn’t advice that loses its relevance when you’re past that first-publication hurdle—or the second or third, or twenty-third, or sixty-third! It is the continuing tough thread in the life of writers who want to maintain a long career.
And strangely and wonderfully, what you also learn is that never giving up isn’t simply a matter of grim determination not to be beaten—it can also be a joyful and inspiring challenge that means you get better and better at your craft.
Over to you–I’d love to hear your own stories of persistence!