On the road to publication – what have I learnt?

It’s NaNoWriMo and I take my hat off to all the writers who are participating in this writing frenzy. I couldn’t do it. The thought terrifies me. Once I pile on the pressure, my writing just doesn’t happen. I’m not one of these who can write anything just to get the words down – I wish I was. So whilst I sit in awe of those who have stepped up to the challenge, I’ve been thinking about my own writing and how my views have changed since I re-discovered writing three years ago.

  1. I need a writing qualification to be a ‘proper’ writer – this is what I thought when I decided that I wanted to write ‘seriously’. I started researching courses and my heart sank a little more with each one I found. I just couldn’t afford them. So I decided I’d just have to write anyway. And just by writing, I have learnt so much about my own writing style, because as everyone says, work at your craft and you’ll get better. The more you write, the better you’ll get at it.
  2. I have to follow trends – I spent hours browsing my local Waterstones to see what was current. I read books in the genre I wanted to write. Yet nothing was really happening with my own writing. I was just flitting dispassionately from one idea to another. And that’s when I said to myself, this is stupid. These are other people’s stories, told in their own special way. If I want to be a writer, I need to tell my own story. So I stopped thinking about which genre or age-range I’d write for and just waited for my own story to grow. Within days, the name ‘Grace-Ella’ had leapt at me and so my story began. I didn’t think about where it was going to fit, I just had a story that I wanted to write. When I met my editor for the first time, she said, ‘It is so clear from your writing that you’ve loved writing it. That’s how a story should be written.’ Wise words. I mean, if I don’t enjoy writing a story, I’m certain that no one will enjoy reading it. So yes, I do think that you need to keep an eye on the market, but ultimately, write the story that you want to write. Write the story that gets you excited. Write the story that you love.
  3. I have to write every day – this used to make me panic. I had a job and children, how was I ever going to be able to fit writing in? And like I said at the start, I’m not a writer who can just get the words down. If they don’t feel right, I just can’t write them. This I found really difficult to begin with. I had to write every day but if inspiration wasn’t there, I’d sit staring miserably at a blank screen. Then I finally found a way through this. I wrote something completely different. I would leave my WIP and write a short story or a piece of flash fiction. It works for me. It clears headspace for the words to start flowing again and I can get back to my WIP with renewed vigour.
  4. I have to let others see my work – this terrified me. I didn’t want to show my work to anyone close to me. I looked into critique services and once again, saw that I couldn’t afford them. So, I could have continued to write and keep everything locked away for my eyes only, or I could send my work ‘out there’. The first step I took was entering a short story in a competition. I entered Writers’ Forum’s monthly contest and paid a small fee to have it critiqued (£3). It was the boost I needed and gave me the confidence to enter a few more competitions. I believe that doing this really does help prepare you for submitting to agents/publishers – it certainly did for me. I then discovered a critique service offered to unpublished writers in Wales, by Literature Wales. The feedback I received for my debut book was invaluable and I strongly recommend this service. Now that I’m a ‘published’ writer, I can no longer use this service, but I am now being mentored through the WoMentoring Project – http://womentoringproject.co.uk/ – another fantastic opportunity for writers who can’t afford the crippling high fees of critique services. My current WIP is now in the hands of my mentor.
  5. I’ll never get published – the more I read about publishing and author rejections, the more downhearted I became. It was virtually impossible to get published. But then I thought, well I love writing, so I’ve got nothing to lose. I wrote my first children’s book and buoyed up by competition wins with my short stories and fully prepared for rejection, I sent it off to Firefly Press. And whilst I waited for the polite rejection e-mail I let myself feel proud that I’d written a book. A book that I had enjoyed every second of writing. And if it never went any further than the screen of my laptop, I had still achieved something that I never thought I would. Well, as those of you who know me already, the polite rejection e-mail never came. What pinged into my inbox was the start of my dream come true. Firefly Press loved my story.

And that’s what I’ve learnt on my writing journey so far. I didn’t need a writing qualification, I wrote the story that I wanted to write without getting hung up about which age-group it was for or whether there was a place for it in the current market. I simply wrote a story I loved. I swallowed my fear of rejection and sent it off. And the ending of the story? I got my first publishing deal. If I can do it, so can you.

Happy writing,

Hwyl am y tro x

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