I'm sure many of you will remember Clare Cooper from her time on the fiction team of Woman's Weekly. Today she's sharing her experiences of life on the other side of the submissions desk.
Wanted: Writers to fill pages in magazines. Must have thick skins and be prepared to take criticism, rejection and incredibly long waiting times on the chin. Must learn to bite their tongues and not get stroppy, or they will be sent to the naughty desk. Must accept that not everything they write is going to see the light of day but must put their keen disappointment to one side, keep the faith and carry on regardless. Is there anybody out there mad enough to take on such a seemingly thankless job?
As I have mentioned before on here, the best part of my previous job as Deputy Fiction Editor on Woman’s Weekly was reading and selecting the short stories that appeared in the magazine each week and also in our monthly Fiction Special. The second-best bit was contacting the writers to let them know we wanted to buy their story. We always marvelled at how our brilliant band of writers continued to rise to the challenge and provide us with a never-ending supply of great fiction.
Fast-forward a year (and a bit more) since I left my job. Let’s face it, my previous role sounds quite cushy from where I’m sitting now, not doing a great deal and spending unhealthy amounts of time on social media. I have an idea for a novel but I’m stuck on it at the moment. I don’t feel motivated. How do people get inspired? Where do their ideas come from? Where do all those thousands of words come from? Do they feel like failures if they haven’t kept to their self-imposed deadlines, while others are getting on with it and producing their third novel in the same amount of time? It feels as though the world and his wife are writing books and social media is full of them promoting their work and plugging their friends’ work, to boot.
It’s all rather daunting and disheartening and, while I am struggling to get my novel idea off the starting block, I have been mulling over something I wrote on this website at the beginning of 2018, about getting writing fit for the coming year. Inspired by some kind comments, I thought I would try and see if anyone would like to publish it. I have never had to put myself “out there” and sell something to anybody, other than within my old company and to people I already knew, so it took a lot of nerve and effort to write the email and send my feature off into the ether – well, to Jonathan Telfer at Writing Magazine, anyway. To my relief, he liked it and it’s going into the February issue. Then, blow me if he didn’t get in touch to ask me to write about something else – for the same issue, as it turns out. Typical! You wait a year, and then two come along at once…
Yes, the view from the other side of the desk is more than a bit scary and it’s very early days, but I’d like to think there will be more literary gems dropping from my computer keyboard at some point. If not, and I’ve peaked too soon, at least I now have a much better understanding of what it’s like for everyone else – and I respect and salute you all! I feel I have an awful long way to go. Now, where did I put the application for that seemingly thankless job?
The February issue of Writing Magazine containing Clare's article is available from newsagents now. You might also like to visit her blog Hampton Caught.