I was recently contacted by Webucator who are performing the excellent task of stretching NaNoWriMo a little further this year but getting authors to talk about what motivates them and to give out tips to any fresh-faced writer-types out there.
Of course, I’m all for that!
You can read the posts of others who have come before me here:
It seems so long ago that I often wonder if I’m remembering it right, or whether nostalgia has warped my memory. But the moment I see clearest is being in my local branch of WH Smiths at age 11, and spotting the insane cover artwork of Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic. I’d always been an avid reader, but something about those books just grabbed me and haven’t let go since. I was obsessed by them, reading one after the other as soon as my Mum could afford to buy me the next one.
Sir Terry was where my flirtations with writing began, too. I think the first story I tried to write was about a jester called Malcolm who had a talking puppet, and was pitted against a monster which was attacking a small seaside town. I never finished it. But I was only 14 at the time so cut me some slack.
The idea of writing stayed with me, though. I read every book I had offered, and always loved the creative writing sections of any school syllabus. All I ever wanted was to have my own book on a shelf, just like Sir Terry; just to have someone browse past my work was the dream and remained the dream for a long time.
It was years later when, having finished my Nursing degree and I was working as a full time neurological rehabilitation Nurse, the writing came back. An odd and remarkably vivid dream sparked to idea for a novel which simply wouldn’t let me go until it was on paper. That was Greaveburn, my first novel, which I predominantly wrote and then finished while working the night shift. Night time is the best for writing gothic fantasy. It’s either being surrounded by darkness or the fact that your brain in half asleep, but it conjures such beautifully dark images.
And so, the journey into authordom began. To cut a long story short, I passed the time while trawling agents and publishers by writing short horror stories and sending them to magazines, some of which made it into print, but Greaveburn was eventually accepted by Inspired Quill publishing and the rest is a fantastic blur of signings and conventions.
So I had reached my goal; book on shelf. I could rest on my laurels and sip brandy like a Sir. But no. Never one to be satisfied with anything I do, I had to write another one. A better one. And so writing the best book I could became my next goal. I’ve read, made notes, and even completed a second degree, this time in English Literature (focussing on creative writing, of course) with the Open University. All in the name of being the best writer I can be. And here we are, up to present, with my second novel released and a collection of my old horror stories on the way. And I’m still typing furiously, the next goal just keeps on coming. This time it’s “write a sequel that is better than the first”, for both Greaveburn and The Adventures of Alan Shaw.
That, I think, is my new motivation. I’ve had so much support and feedback from family and readers that I don’t want to let them down; make them proud, make their £7.99 purchase worth their time and effort; give the incredible people I’ve met over the course of those signings and conventions something worth having.
And keep writing. If only to get the pestering, gnawing little stories out of my head so I can concentrate on buying that bottle of milk or listening to a family member without drifting off into my fantasies.
For any new writer out there, striving to finish the book, to find a publisher, to make themselves better, I can give a few tidbits of advice which have done me well. First, read. Read everything. And read with your writing in mind. You can only be innovative and ground-breaking if you know what’s come before you. Secondly, write. Write all the time. In your head, in your notebook, on a beer mat or a toilet wall. Write like your life depends on it. Third (this is my personal favourite), work hard. Stop making excuses about not having time. I was working full time as a nurse, completing a degree course, organising a wedding, doing signings for my first book and still found time to write the second one. If I can do it, as King of the Procrastinators, then you can too. Sometimes you have to give something up; your favourite tv show or (in my case) sleep, so give it. If you want to reach your goal badly enough, swap your excuses for allowances.
And finally, remember that there is no magic ticket to the land of the publisher, and no set rules anymore. I don’t have an agent. I found my publisher on Twitter. If that’s not an example of how the old publishing rules don’t apply any more, I don’t know what is. So get out there, spread the word, collect readers like chocolate frog cards and love every one of them because readers are your best friends.
Good luck, Author-in-the-making. You can do it.