The pen may not be that mighty

Jennie Ridyard

Jennie Ridyard

Jennie details her writing journey as she faces more uphills which force her to question if the pen is really mighter than the sword.

I’ve always told stories. As I child, I’d lie awake in the dark with stories running in my head like short films. In sleep, I dreamt big and dramatic tales. Come daylight, I fantasised about being an author, a writer of fiction. I still do.

“You should write a book,” people say, as if it were that easy, as if I’d never thought of it. But I have. I have actually written four complete books, and co-written a series of three.

The trilogy – science fiction – was published largely thanks to the reputation of my co-author, a known novelist, but made no dents anywhere except in the minds of the occasional fabulous teenager, who searched us out on social media to thank us. One fan even went to her school’s library day dressed as the main character in the trilogy, which must have been difficult given that our alien heroine is rather lacking in the eyelid department.

But the other manuscripts? Well, three are dead in the water, buried in old files now obsolete, beaten into and out of shape, never quite good enough, and rejected by multiple agents. One even replied to my submission by saying: “You write a lovely covering letter, a pity about the manuscript.”

These are my bottom drawer novels, the dry runs the world will never see. But now, today, I am staring down my latest book-in-waiting, something I am hugely proud of, over 120,000 words that are all mine, something I poured my heart and soul into and, more importantly, everything I have learnt in a quarter century of writing professionally.

This book took me over a year to craft, then eight months to polish and refine with the gentle steering of my agent – yes, I managed to get an agent – and now … it’s looking for a publisher. Or not. Because nobody wants it. After sixteen rejections – or “passes” as my agent euphemistically calls them – we’re running out of options. Each pass is much the same: it’s a joy, editors say, but it’s an unpredictable/saturated/tricky marketplace, and we don’t know how we’d sell it.

As for me, I simply don’t know what else to do because this is it: this is the best I can do. Yes, I’ve always told stories, but I’m really battling to give the tale of my writing career a happy ending.

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