It’s good. But it’s not right
Roy Walker used to say this all the time on Catchphrase. Contestants would give the most ridiculous answers, say words that made no sense, and rather than telling them they were (hopelessly) wrong, he would say, in all sincerity, “It’s good but it’s not right.”
My writing career has been mainly private and solitary so far. Yes, I post bits of fiction on here, and I enjoy writing them and reading those that others create, but in what I would term a “professional” capacity, very little has left my hands. A few years back, I co-wrote a sitcom pilot for a BBC competition, and got nowhere. Luckily though I had a contact in the BBC who passed it to the desk it needed to be picked up from, and a commissioning editor’s underling read it. They liked it, but the idea wasn’t the best. We were naïve and didn’t write in a sitcom format – three/four central indoor sets with occasional other scenes – and the “sit” in the “com” didn’t have potential. What we did have though, we were told in words I have never forgotten, in a letter I always regret not keeping never mind not framing, was “the ability to write funny.” In short, we were given the Roy Walker rejection.
I have been writing this current WIP for about three and a half years in its various drafts and forms. Originally it was intended to be a TV drama but I write best in novel form so this is how it has been so far, with the intention of adapting later. About eighteen months or so back, I made contact with a TV producer who asked me to send him something. I converted the opening few chapters into an hour-long Episode One, planned out the rest of the series and sent it to him. Some four weeks later he wrote back. He quite liked the way I wrote but this idea wasn’t the best. In short, I got the Roy Walker rejection.
So why am I telling you all this? Because I have been reviewing my WIP for the last few weeks and have almost reached the end. And the bad news is, although there are sentences, passages, scenes, even whole chapters that are well-written and make me feel proud, as an overall body of work it isn’t good enough. The problems are in the structure – the pacing is off, the reveals aren’t handled well enough, the characters don’t progress in an even way. And to be honest I am having doubts over the plot as a whole. I replanned it after the first draft, took out a main arc, but I’m still not sure it properly works. This isn’t the book that will get me signed. If I sent it to any publishers or agents I would get the Roy Walker again.
I’m still proud of finishing it, of the work I have put in, I’m just not sure I’m as proud of the actual results as I once was. So I will think about any different directions I can take the plot, give it one more draft, and then decide – Postbox or bottom drawer?
Whatever I decide, I know I can write. And now I know I can produce a novel I’m confident I can produce another, better one. One that might actually be good enough to publish.