Subbing, writing yips, and into PhD-land

Submitting: “Welcome to the Desert of the Real”

In the highly influential film The Matrix, the first time Neo is taken beyond his fabricated world he is theatrically welcomed to ‘The Desert of the Real’.

This it turns out, is the reality which greets most writers when they enter the harsh wastelands of agent submissions. I’m not anti-agent. I can’t afford to be. We’re often told (and warned) that speaking out will mean that agents talk to each other and you’ll find yourself silently cancelled.

Agents have hard jobs and busy lives. They don’t make money for ages, if at all. I am incredibly respectful of their role, their time, and the profession. But the reverse is also true. Writers don’t make money, they often have worked tirelessly and if they submit according to all the rules. Doing this properly involves significant time and effort. The reward? Often tumbleweeds. Plus the painful awareness you’ve stolen the most precious of all commodities, time, from those you love.

An image from the film The Matrix. Morpheus sits in a chair holding a remote control.
The real. A very scary place, indeed.

I don’t mind rejections. But it is a demeaning and dehumanising feeling when people are too busy or important to even reject you. More so, when you’ve almost died crafting your book (true story). Each submission is researched to the point of exhaustion. Each agent is addressed personally. This a methodical process, it takes time. A little bit of me leaves with each submission, and much of the time I have left in this world doesn’t even justify a ‘no thanks’ from another human. I struggle to think of another business where this would be acceptable, let alone normal.

I am incredibly grateful to those agents that took time to reject me. Even more to those rare agents that took time to offer advice. You are a shining light in the darkness. Thank you!

This process, has almost broken me. And it takes a lot to do that.

I am humbled by the established writers that have helped me (you know who you are). To my cohort for support. And to the community that I know face these challenges themselves.

I know I’m far from alone. This message is, in part, to echo the experience of many of us.

An indoor image, with the word 'community' in background and silhouettes of raised hands in foreground
Hands-up if you’re lost, like me

Flash (fiction), Saviour of the Universe

My writing life has become frozen. Attempts to kick-start it have failed. This process has given me what sports people would call, the yips.

Since starting, this is the longest time I have been devoid of energy or forward momentum. It’s not a feeling I enjoy. I can normally push through, and have done so previously, against some truly grim circumstances and odds that defy belief.

When this happens at work, or other areas of my life, I tend to want to regain some level of control. I have no control over agents, or if they are kind enough to even send a rejection email. I have no control over knowing if I’m making my book worse with each passing editing phase.

I can, and will, see the novel into publication. Even if this means returning to self publishing. I want to see the agent route through, but I’m struggling to face it right now. I need to do something that is more in my control, to help myself, to possibly help others. It’s who I am. It’s what I’ve done before.

Flash, the writing saviour.
Flash Fiction, not this guy.

Short stories, flash and micro fiction, and VSS are truly beautiful artforms. This is not the first time I have shouted from the rooftops on this topic.

Take a look at the incredible VSS world on social media. Marvel at short stories, flash and micro fiction on blogs and competitions.




Beyond that, these forms are open-world. They are transparent. The words are released to the public and communities almost real-time. Novels often are not like this. They spend their lives hidden away, glanced at by a select few beta readers if an author is very lucky. This process can take anything from six months, to ten years.

So, despite the fact that I grew up in a not so great area of London, and left school with nothing but a handful of GCSEs. Beyond the numerous challenges I face. I am about to embark on a PhD. The centre of which will be using vss/micro fiction and social media to write longer forms of fiction. Hopefully these will also be collaborative (if anyone will help me, please say you will). Of course, this has been done by a number of people already, of which I am incredibly proud. But this will be an attempt to document it, to research it. To understand if this method can help those that might struggle with access to education, are restrained by time, are limited by health, are unable to afford courses, or laptops, or software.

These were some of the incredible outcomes from starting vss365 all those years ago. An infinite number of possibilities. Characters, worlds, novels, music, art, and film have started as vss365 stories. Yes, a single word has generated this multiverse of wonder.

Communities helping each other. Readers and writers sharing real-time creativity and feedback. People writing that have never written before. Writers stuck in the permafrost of doubt (like I am now), being reborn in writing again.

So, I feel in many ways, like I want to explore this in much greater depth.

A new (scary) adventure awaits

This coming journey genuinely terrifies me. In ways that even my intensive cancer treatment didn’t. So, I ask for your best wishes, and maybe a bit of support along the way.

Much peace and love to you, and those closest to you – M

[Sorry for any mistakes. Dyslexia is a shadowy creature that strikes even when you’ve checked a dozen times already]


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