A Writer? Seriously?

This is something I hear regularly. More so from myself than other people funnily enough. It’s that doubt, that voice from childhood wriggling in your brain: ‘Writing? You mean like a journalist? You wouldn’t like that.’ ‘No, I mean writing as in stories, books. It’s a real job.’ ‘It’s a real job for other people though, it’s far too uncertain to be something you’d want to go into. It’s almost as bad as acting or music! What you want is a good steady profession like accounting or computing or teaching. Become a laboratory assistant, just don’t try to be a writer!’ (I wasn’t actually told I couldn’t be anything, I was just unknowingly steered toward certain things and away from others.)

Trouble is I am a writer. I wake up in the morning and the first thing I think about is probably writing – what am I working on at the moment, have I solved that problem, oh heck I’ve finished something, that means I’m on editing! During the day I can sit typing for hours without noticing. Before I go to sleep the characters whisper–

Yes, I’m a crazy person too. I hear voices. My characters often refuse to do things that are out of character or a bit iffy, ask if we can please get on with the story, and demand to know how I’m going to get them out of the situation I’ve stuck us in. It’s a common enough complaint among writers. One said if they weren’t a writer they’d be in serious trouble. I mean, hearing voices, compulsive behaviours and rituals, taking drugs (caffeine only. By the bucket) suffering from multiple personalities, delusions. . . Not a good prognosis.

So, a writer but not a published one, which means I’m not an author. (Subtle difference but a big one) Does this mean, since I’ve been writing for however many years and haven’t yet had anything published, that I’m bad at it? Not necessarily. Could be I’ve been submitting my work to the wrong places, been unlucky, just need to make a slight change to my style and I’d get there. . . Sometimes it feels as stupid as saying you nearly won the race. Because it doesn’t matter how nearly you were if you didn’t win. But at the same time writing is so subjective, so vulnerable to the choice of judges, the chance of who else happens to write a story like yours but theirs is just a snitch better.

My writing story: how I started writing. It all began in school. I enjoyed English classes, I loved reading, and the only downside was the stories we started in class usually didn’t get finished. It was a ‘write the first chapter’ exercise or ‘we’ll finish this next week’ and we never did. I started writing my first novel while I was in secondary school. It turned into a series of novels which I worked on through college, had a break from for the first couple of years of university but then I got back to in my final year. Those notebooks still sit on my writing shelf.

I wrote on and off after that: For My Eyes Only. Got to writing a bit more seriously a couple of years back. I’d had a bad year health-wise, and writing short stories gave me something non-active and not too intimidating to do. Sometimes the brain requirements fell through, but that could be fixed during editing! I showed my work to a couple of people, I saw a poster advertising a competition, and I was hooked. Competition entering is addictive I tell you! And expensive if you’re not so selective, as I wasn’t that first year. After I weaned myself off the competitions I was still writing, but I was back onto novels: a fantasy YA, Regency romance, contemporary romance, sci-fi, a cosy murder, more romances, a ghost story. Not all of them got finished, but I was enjoying having a go at a bit of everything.

There’s so many different routes to go down now as an aspiring author: traditional agent and publishing, entering competitions and making submissions to magazines and journals, self-publication, crowd-funding projects like on kickstarter. . . And don’t get me started on the social media and marketing side of things! Trouble is, several of those options require investment – pay for manuscript editing and assessment, agents get a percentage, publicists get a percentage, having a proper author website can be costly, getting your book self-published often costs, and then there’s cover design– Sorry, sidetracked. What was I saying?

Oh, yes, lots of different routes to choose from. All requiring (unless you’re already rich) a writer to be also editor, designer, marketer, and all while having a ‘real’ job. I’m currently teetering on the precipice: should I self-publish? I’ve edited (and re-edited over and over and over) one of my novels, formatted it how they want, designed a front cover – thank goodness for my limited art skills right? – and now. . . Now I’m thinking things through, trying to decide whether or not to go ahead.

The writing part is so much fun! It’s everything else that’s the pain. I just then feel bad for all these stories sitting on my hard-disk or tucked away on my bookshelf. I can’t stop writing though, and if I’m going to be spending my time on it I might as well keep sending work out to see if anything comes of it. I guess the worst that can happen is I get rejected. Again. Again, again, again, again, again, again. And it’s not always just a no. I’ve had work shortlisted, and one piece has been accepted for publication. (Who knows when it’ll actually be published mind)

Plus, I could claim it’s therapy and then who’s going to tell me to stop? Yeah.

“In my writing I explore situations and express otherwise pent-up emotions, in a healthy and creative way.”

Definitely sounds plausible.


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