The Crime Writers' Association

The Debuts

Too Stubborn to Give Up, by Graham Brack

They say that every child is beautiful to its mother. To the rest of us, of course, some children are less than handsome. Try as we might, we can’t get past those ears.

Our books are our children, and I suppose if others find them unattractive we have to give some thought to whether they really are plug ugly, and therefore in need of some beautification, or whether greater acquaintance will make them grow on others.

Having finally secured a publishing contract on, I think, the thirty-first attempt perhaps I am qualified to write a little about the importance of perseverance.

Rejection hurts; even those of us who are amateurs and wrote primarily for pleasure dislike it. We have produced what we think is the best that lies within us, only to find someone else does not value it as we do, and that stings. As Dr Johnson said “Many causes may vitiate a writer’s judgement of his own works. On that which has cost him much labour he sets a high value, because he is unwilling to think that he has been diligent in vain.”

This is accentuated because you don’t need to read very many books that have been published before you come across some inferior to your own. My particular shudders are reserved for crime stories where the plots have holes in them. What happens if A doesn’t open the letter before he leaves the house? How can B be sure that C will pick up the weapon and jump to the conclusion that her sister D is the killer? How did these get published when your own work is so much better?

But rejection offers us the chance to review any feedback we have had and decide how much validity there is in it. It is emphatically not a case for abandoning the idea – unless, of course, readers are more or less unanimous in their view that this is a lemon. I’ve been lucky; the first draft of The Outrageous Behaviour of Left-Handed Dwarves is very similar to the published version, but even this experienced a fairly late change, for which my brother must be thanked. I trust his opinion, and when he read the first draft he pointed to a section that he did not like, and said why. I was very fond of that part and thought I could get over that problem, but after a few rewrites I had to admit that he was right, despite being my little brother.

However, no critic has a flawless record, and there are anthologies of hopelessly misguided rejection letters. Take a look at for some beauties. Both Beatrix Potter and Richard Adams were assured that nobody would care about rabbits, but both proved that we could, and did. Margaret Mitchell had seven more rejections than me before someone snapped up Gone with the Wind.

If people reject your work, do all you can to get specific feedback, and don’t discount it out of hand. Treat it as free advice. You don’t have to follow it all, but if they know their jobs you have to have a good reason to reject it. Follow Oliver Cromwell’s admonition and “… think it possible you may be mistaken”. Tell those you trust not to be gentle with you. You value their opinion, not their sense of what you would like them to say. There are very few books, even published ones, that could not be improved. Even a diamond needs to be polished.

My book has my name on the cover, but half a dozen others played a big part in its production. Their comments made it better; but what really helped was their insistence that I must keep going, because they believed it was good enough for people to part with hard-earned brass for it. How could I do otherwise? How can you?

Find Graham’s published book, The Outrageous Behaviour of Left-Handed Dwarves, here:

and find out more about Graham on his CWA Author profile, here:

(coming soon!)


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