Persistence Pays Off

Anyone who writes, or more specifically anyone who submits their writing to be published, will be familiar with rejection. Our stories get rejected, sometimes for reasons that make sense to us, sometimes with no reason given, sometimes for reasons that perplex us. We just have to suck it up and move on to the next potential market. But there may come a time when, with the rejections pilling up and the possible market options dwindling, when we decide to cut our losses. That story is never going to sell. Put it in the (virtual) bottom drawer and forget about it, at least for now.

As you may have heard (because I’ve gone on about it A LOT) I have just signed a new book deal, for my science fantasy duology, Shadowlands.

Whilst I’ve recently enjoyed some success with my shorter fiction it’s been over five years since I’ve had a novel out and, to be frank, I was beginning to get a little disillusioned. This story, I thought, is never going to sell. But Shadowlands was a project I still felt passionate about despite the rejections, because one advantage of writing a book on spec – as opposed to contract – is that you can indulge yourself; you really can write what you love. And I thought the story was publishable, if a little outside the genre norms.

So I didn’t give up. I did rewrite the first book, Hidden Sun, several times, because though the idea was sound there were… issues with the execution in the early drafts. Finally, at the end of last year, I concluded that it was as good as I could get it. I’d have one last attempt to get this story I loved so much out into the world before sadly relegating it to the bottom drawer, perhaps awaiting a point at which I could put it out myself, perhaps via my Patreon.

I looked at my options. Various avenues were tried. To my surprise and delight within a couple of weeks of submitting the novel to Angry Robot’s ‘open door submission period’ they got in touch to say they were interested. A few weeks later, the contract was signed. And so, my Shadowlands story has found a home. I’m so glad I didn’t give up on it.

My first editor, at Gollancz, gave a piece of advice pertinent to this little tale: she said, “It’s all about getting the right manuscript onto the right editor’s desk at the right time.”  Or to put it another way: you have to be lucky, but you make your own luck. So, if you’re a writer, and you’ve got a project that you love and know is worth it, maybe don’t give up on it too soon. The right desk may be waiting for you.

(Just in case you don’t know, the first book in the Shadowlands duology, Hidden Sun, will be out in September, from Angry Robot. The second book, Broken Shadow, will be out next year. There’s an official announcement from Barnes & Noble here.)

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@JaineFenn

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