A year ago, I started a novel.
I took it to the Harbourfront Reader series – they had an event where a publishing company’s editor and a writer would review the first page of your work. The editor was to state whether or not he would, as an editor, continue reading or not.
The samples were not labelled with our names but you could tell whose story was being discussed by their reaction, as the panel went through each one on a dais, while the rest of us sat below, quivering.
My sample was approximately midway through the pile. As we approached mine, I felt physically ill. I had been thinking about / making notes on this piece for so long that I was pretty sure it would kill me if he said he hated it. Yes, I know… There are plenty of editors / publishers and even J.K. Rowling was turned down the first 10 times she submitted… Knowing that doesn’t change the anguish of sitting there waiting for someone to proclaim if you were wasting your time or not. They were merciless with some of the other writers, basically intimating that they shouldn’t give up their day jobs any time soon.
Finally, after about an hour, he got to my piece. I sat in my chair, shaking. Thank goodness my mother had come with me. She put her hand on my hand to quell the quiver. The panel cut up some of my layout (I didn’t indent and the text was single spaced), which didn’t bother me. They liked some of the terms and imagery I’d used: “she gleamed against the dark sky, in her yellow rain suit, gamboling gently as though on a gloriously perfumed summer day”. I was holding my breath. Like a man standing in the accused box of a murder trial, I was on edge waiting for the editor’s verdict.
“I would turn the page. There’s something here.”
If he or the others said anything after that, I didn’t hear a word of it. Ironically, this event put the fear of god into me about continuing with the project. I put it away for a while. The other day, I took it out again. I re-read what I had written so far and decided that I didn’t hate it. Keep on going, or as my daughter is being taught at nursery school: “You can do it!”