Frustrations of a would-be novelist

You might recall that back in November (2013) I sent the draft manuscript of National Cake Day in Ruritania to a literary consultant for a critique – along with the requisite payment, which required no critique at all. I was told that because of their heavy work-load the consultancy wouldn’t be able to provide feedback for six weeks and a date of December 27th was mooted. I heard nothing further. Half way through January I inquired about progress and received an account of inept editors whose work had had to be redone, unprecedented pressure of work, etc. There have been further communications of the kind since, accompanied by serial promises that my manuscript was high on the agenda and would receive attention during the next few days. I still await the critique.

About eight or nine days ago I phoned the consultant with a further inquiry. There was the customary profuse apology and a further account of the high workload; this time there was also mention of personal difficulties. Notwithstanding the problems, I was assured an interim report at least would be issued by the middle of the coming week (i.e. around February 26th). I continue to await it. One sympathizes about personal problems and understands excessive work demands, but three and a half months does seem rather a long time to wait for a critique when one’s paid for it in advance…

Of course it would be stupid just to sit and wait and eschew all creative activity in the interim. Thanks to my storytelling arrangements, the requirements of the creative writing class (not least the Heritage Lottery Fund application), the short story competition I’ve been judging, a short story competition I’m supposed to be entering, and umpteen hours of medical/scientific editing, I haven’t been idle. Alas, my intention to work on another novel manuscript (working titleĀ Divided) has been thwarted by this very constellation of demands (to which I could add arrangements for the drama, various meetings, secretarial work for the local concert society, walking the neighbour’s dog…). I’ve written a little of it but the opportunity to commit more words to paper, or screen, is lacking, and promises to remain lacking for the foreseeable future. This might technically be dubbed an ongoing negative time situation.

So it isn’t only literary consultants who are too busy to work on a novel manuscript. The difference, I suppose, is that I’m not being paid to work on mine – which is just as well, otherwise I wouldn’t be earning anything!

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