Writing – The School of Hard Knocks.


“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”

                                                                                   – C S Lewis


“Writing – ain’t for the faint hearted.” Who said that? Oh yes, of course, me! And if you think it is, I suggest you give up now. It often involves long, solitary hours tapping away at a keyboard, in front of a computer screen, where emotions are apt to swing violently from belief your work is the next big thing to the worse piece of writing on the planet – ever. Then there are the edits and the rewrites and that’s long before you start submitting your work. And once you do, there’s every possibility it will be rejected. But if you are lucky enough to get a publisher, or indeed as many brilliant writers now do, successfully self-publish, you’re still putting your work ‘out there’ for public scrutiny. Reviews are vital to a writer and sometimes they’ll be great, at others, brutal. So without doubt, the one thing you open yourself up to, as a writer, is rejection and criticism. In fact, that’s probably a given for most things in life, especially those that catapult you, one way or another, into the public arena, which of course writing most definitely does.

However, how can you become known as a writer unless you take a chance? Luckily, reading is subjective. There will always be those (hopefully!) who love your work and sadly those who don’t. Never let rejection or bad reviews sway you from pursuing your writing dream though. Rejection is a strong test of character. Nonetheless, I do accept there will be days when it’s not always possible to remain so philosophical. So, for all the writers and would be writers reading this and suffering a crisis of confidence, here is a list of famous writers whose novels were initially rejected.

  • A publisher rejects H.G. Wells The War Of The Worlds, describing it as “an endless nightmare.” Eventually published in 1898, it has been in print ever since.


  • Louisa May Alcott is told to “stick to teaching.” She doesn’t give up on her dream to become a published writer and later Little Women goes on to sell millions. Some 140 years later it is still in print.


  • Agatha Christie experiences 5 years of continual rejection before landing a publishing deal. Her book sales are now in excess of £2 billion.


  • In 1968 Ursula K. Le Guin receives a letter from an editor suggesting her book, The Left Hand of Darkness is “Hopelessly bogged down and unreadable.” It goes on to become one of her many best-sellers, regularly voted as the second best fantasy novel of all time, next to The Lord of the Rings.
  • Stephen King was told, “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” Carrie sold over one million copies in the first year alone.
  • Initially rejected by 16 literary agencies and 12 publishers, the modest print run of 5000 copies for John Grisham’s, A Time To Kill,  quickly sells out and goes on to become a best seller. He now has combined sales of 250 million.


  • The Christopher Little Literary Agency takes on a new client. Her novel is rejected by 12 publishers. Eventually picked up by an editor at Bloomsbury, the company agree to publish but tell the writer to get a day job as she has little chance of making money from children’s books. Yet Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling generates a series of such books, setting records as the fastest-selling books in history, with combined sales of £450 million.
  • Small publishers in San Francisco, Macadam/Cage, fall in love with and agree to publish a debut novel sent to them. Prior to this, 25 literary agents rejected it. Translated into 33 languages and adapted as a movie, Audrey Niffenegger’s, The Time Traveller’s Wife sells 7 million copies.
  • Only selling 800 copies on its limited first release, the author finds a new publisher and Paulo Coelho’s, The Alchemist, sells 75 million.



Eva Jordan reviews… Love and a Dozen Roast Potatoes by Simon Wan

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Publisher – Urbane Publications

You know the hero always gets the girl right? Well, what if the hero gets the girl but she’s not the right girl? Worse, what if the girl doesn’t actually want the hero?

Such is the life of our romantic hero as he negotiates the triple threat of trying to becoming a cheese ball superstar, finding his cartoon princess, and bringing her home for a perfect Christmas roast potato. It’s a life tale of comic disasters, sex (lots of weird sex), relationship nightmares and discovering your nakedness in a world full of people wearing the same old clothes.

Honest, warm, funny and very hip, this is David Nicholls with the tears, the pain and the naughty bits put brazenly on display for the world to see.

My Review

If you like the idea of reading something a little different then this is just the book. Honest and warm with lots of laugh out loud moments plus a couple of weird ones to boot (check out the acknowledgements to give you a bit of an idea), this is the story of one man’s quest to find true love.

As Shakespeare himself famously wrote, “the course of true love never did run smooth” and never has there been a more appropriate turn of phrase when it comes to the complicated love life of Mr Simon Wan. Beginning at the tender age of eight, the author takes us right back to the 1980s and the first girl he fell in love with, Claire. Having only been at his new school for a couple of days, Claire and her friend feel sorry for the half-Chinese boy being teased by the other boys. In a bid to make him feel better, the girls kiss him on the cheek. “The next playtime, the boys who called me ‘chinkychong pong face’ were a little more interested in being my friend…and that probably set the precedent [for my life] for the next thirty-two years.”

With an obvious zest for life and an honest love and appreciation of women (all kinds of women), as well as music and fashion, not forgetting the roast potatoes of course, the writer then proceeds to walk us through three colourful decades of his life and the never-ending story (and yes, that sentence is alluding to a friend of said author who gets a mention in this book – think eighties pop icon with spiky blonde hair) of his search for true love. And it’s all there, the long hot summers, public transport, the video player, mixtapes, skateboards, drink-fuelled fights and drug-fuelled raves – “we drove around the country lanes in the middle of the night searching for phone boxes that would lead us to hidden rave arenas and when we got there we danced until it was a different day. Life was fast. Life was about lasers and ecstasy, nothing could stop us. We had the keys to a brave new world. We were invincible.”

Snappy, fast-paced but easy to read, Wan is masterful at painting pictures with words. He is also brutally honest about himself and although, on the whole, the book remains upbeat and wonderfully witty throughout, Wan doesn’t sugar coat his faults or his mistakes, which in a way only makes him more endearing. He is human and doesn’t try and hide it. Written with great humour and sincerity, if you’re looking for something a little different then I’d definitely recommend Love and a Dozen Roast Potatoes. But be warned – be prepared to feel very worn out after reading it.