On liking what you’re selling

sloth ML-1I realised this morning, whilst walking along a damp footpath, that I didn’t actually feel proud or happy with something I’ve been trying to submit to agents.

I started writing the Madcap Library stories for me; they were amusing, using sketches of characters based on things in my Library, odd people, weird situations that were crazy enough to be funny. I didn’t really have an audience in mind beyond ‘children’ and anyone who likes silly stories!

Then my illustrator and I were asked, about a year ago, to submit a proposal for a picture story using one of the characters (the Sloth) for 3-5 year olds. I admit I struggled to adapt the stories, but I wrote some new ones, adapted some old ones, picked out three…and I thought I’d done ok so we sent them off. We didn’t hear back (I know publishers are busy, but…) and so Hannah suggested submitting to other agents and publishers. I did some work and started pulling together lists, and got in the last month I’ve got rejections from the first two agents we submitted to. Well, keep trying, eh?

Well…no. It occured to me, on the aforementioned path, that I don’t actually like the stories I’m submitting. I’m not happy with them. I’m not confident in what I’m trying to sell.

I wrote the stories because I was asked to, and I don’t even think they’re right. They aren’t stories for 3-4 year olds – 6-7 at best, but probably older! I don’t want to write simplified stories. That isn’t me. I want to write the stories that are in my head for this character; I want a book with illustrations, not a picture book. There is always a degree of working to your market, yes. But when I’m struggling with what I’m writing, when I don’t like the product, when I haven’t got any passion in what I’m trying to pitch…

So I’m shelving the stories for a second time; I’m going back to the original concepts and I’m going to let them play. I’m going to be honest to myself about who the stories are written for and what I want to put in them. And hopefully, after that, I’ll be proud of what I’m trying to pitch to the outside world.