THE FIVE STAGES OF (NOVEL WRITING) GRIEF
You deny that this manuscript you have worked on for years, is trash. Deny that no one will pay you a good advance for it. Deny it won’t sell. You tell yourself that this wont happen to you: you, ending up, best case scenario, with some indie publisher who has a blogspot address and home office and who will only manage to sell 53 of the 500 copies they printed, 30 of them to your friends and family (which you know because each one of them sent you a WhatsApp message with a photo telling you how they “support” your work.)
You get angry that this manuscript you have worked on for years just might be trash. Angry that no one is offering to buy it or pay you a handsome advance for it. Angry that another year has passed and you have no publication date. Angry that you have to keep lying to those who ask if the novel is out yet, that you are holding out for a better offer even though everyone wants it. Angry that you have to avoid the question. Angry that after all these years you’ve only been approached by an indie publisher with a blogspot address and home office (who you know, from their record of sales, will sell 53 copies).
You tell yourself that although some might think that this manuscript you have worked on for years is trash, there are stories of famous writers who made it big after being rejected dozens of times. Like Stephen King. That perhaps you should consider the deal from the indie publisher who will only sell 53 books: no advance, two author copies and no tours or readings. You think it will give you street cred if you go with this publisher with a home office and blogspot address. Because when someone finally discovers your novel and makes it into a huge Hollywood film you will have a sexy grass-to-grace story, something inspiring for festivals, readings and award ceremonies.
You become depressed because the manuscript you have worked on for years is, more than likely, trash. Because although you have rewritten it 15 times, no one wants it. Because now everyone — agents and publishers and all of your dates — has heard about that “manuscript” and people avoid you lest you start talking about it. Because no one replies your emails anymore, not even those polite rejections you used to get that said that although your writing was brilliant, it was not a “right fit” for their publishing house or agency. And because you know your exes check your Facebook and Instagram and Twitter to see if you finally have become a bestselling author. (You stay up all night wondering which of your exes is glad they didn’t stick around to see you become a failure.)
You accept that this manuscript you have worked on for years, is in fact, trash. You accept this and stop emailing agents and publishers (who have all been warned about said manuscript). You start looking for jobs. Thinking of a PhD. Drinking. You befriend those people you snobbed and thought were beneath you when you sure you were going to be a bestselling novelist. You advertise for a flatmate to help out with the rent. You no longer begin conversations with this novel that you have been working on for years. You call your parents and siblings more often just in case, you know, worst case scenario, you might need their help. You email your exes to apologize for being unkind to them when you were writing this novel that you thought was going to become a bestseller. You accept that none of them might respond, as they have all long moved on. When one of them responds, asking if you have been drinking, you accept that too. Maybe, you become religious.