This week I did something: I sent out my book on its own for the first time. Like sending a child to school for the first time (something I’ve also done recently) it feels like a landmark, thrilling and scary. People have read extracts before and been very encouraging, but no one objective has read the whole thing until now. Somewhere, within the next few weeks or, I dunno, months (they get a lot of submissions), an agent will be reading the story of Lucy in Shanghai, as I intended it to be read.
It’s a highpoint for me, I’m proud of what I’ve done because it’s been a really long and difficult journey to get here, with so many delays and frustrations and challenges. I love my book even as I understand its flaws – it’s not the perfect book I planned to write. It’s better because it’s real. It exists, I finished it. The best book you can write is the one you finish. I’ve started so many.
I’m nervous too. It’s obviously possible that I won’t get an agent, maybe they’ll get a few chapters in and just lose interest. Maybe I’ll try reworking it and submit it elsewhere, but still not persuade anyone to take it on and advocate for it.
Or maybe I will get an agent but then not get a publisher. I know a very good writer who just had a novel rejected by every publishing house the agent pitched it to. That book, for whatever reason, is not going to happen. To make it worse, it’s the second time this writer has had this experience. You’d think they’d give up and crawl away to cry over all that hard work. Amazingly, they immediately began something new; they’re halfway through a first draft. If the same happens to me, I don’t know if I can be so brave. And yet, to have got so close is a sign that they definitely can do this. If my book is rejected, I’ll still know that I got to this point, where the initial idea and first chapters were enough to make someone want to read on.
Maybe, though, I will get a publishing deal. And then maybe they’ll want me to cut out something I love (actually, this will definitely happen; everything needs edited). Maybe it won’t be the company I would ideally choose. Maybe they’ll stick a really weird cover on it. Or maybe it’ll all go perfectly but the book only sells twelve copies to pitying friends who give it a charity shop a few weeks later.
It could certainly happen! But at the moment, there’s the glorious window of time where it might not. Where the book I’ve worked so hard on, that’s so personal to me, just goes out there and makes friends, finds other people to love it. That’s all I really want for The Ghost Marriage.
So for now, I’m sitting with that feeling. I’m trying to celebrate what I’ve done, not worry about what might come next.
And I’ve started writing something new.