Tonight’s guest blog post is brought to you by novelist, how-to / short story author, journalist, speaker (and much more) Jane Wenham-Jones.
Do you really want to be a writer?
“It seems,” publisher Alan Samson told me a few years ago, “as though in every street in Britain, someone is writing a book…” (“And I do wish they’d stop,” he added, but I didn’t quote that bit.)
He was, and is, right. Becoming an author has never been sexier. Thousands of new, self-published books appear on Kindle, over a quarter of a million hopefuls sign up for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, each November, critiquing and Hope-to-be-spotted websites abound. And there are more manuals on the subject than you can shake a stick at. (I wrote two of them).
Because being an author sounds terrific!
Imagine. Nothing to do but sit around all day twirling your typing fingers, going to glamorous literary parties and counting your cash. After all, bestsellers fly off the shelves in their millions, become block-busting movies and bring fairy tale endings for single mothers who write in cafes one minute and top the Rich List the next. Or, most recently, sweet-looking TV executives who smash every sales record since the beginning of time by making it almost de rigour to be reading about spanking on the tube.
As a writer, you can get away with spending hours staring out of the window with a strange expression on your face, and call it “working” and then, since it’s well-known that most authors are bonkers, collect the children in your pyjamas. (Smiling mysteriously as other parents in the playground whisper “she’s a novelist, you know,” instead of thinking you’re being taken care of in the community.)
And there is no doubt that one’s name appearing in print is very exciting and a massive ego boost – the first time I had a short story published, I bought 14 copies of the magazine and invited all the neighbours round – and seeing your own books on the shop shelves (should you be so lucky!), an utter joy.
So why do so many start to write and so few, despite the sea of self-published books out there, make it? Leaving aside the small matter of whether one has the talent – it’s an odd thing that nobody expects to become a professional singer because they have a croon in the bath, but anyone who’s ever penned a note to the milkman thinks they could knock out a best-seller – it comes down to staying power.
Writing may sound easy but it’s hard labour and even boring tasks can become attractive in comparison. In her early days as a novelist, Carole Matthews told me, she used to tie her leg to the desk to stop her wandering off to do the ironing.
Producing a 100,000 word manuscript takes many hours, weeks and months of staring at a computer screen or hunching over a notepad, waving the family away with a vague hand, or shrieking at them when they’ve only come to tell you you’ve burnt the oven chips – again. You may talk to yourself, have strange dreams and need to sacrifice your social life.
Although the latter may be a blessing because from now on, your bum will always look big in this. (Writer’s Bottom is a little-mentioned hazard of being a scribe, previously passed over by many a fine how-to book until I lifted the lid on mine.) Still, never mind, writers come in all shapes and sizes and while it never hurts to be thin, gorgeous and sexy, the good news is that when it comes to books sales, the short, fat and ugly have reached the top too.
Could you? Only if you really, really want to.
For quite frankly it’s hard enough to keep going when you’re totally driven. It’s going to be a non-starter if you’d just as soon paint the spare room.
You’re going to lose heart, lack confidence and think everything you write looks like drivel. But remember this: It’s meant to. Every successful writer I’ve ever met, thinks their first drafts are rubbish. That’s what editing is for.
It was one of the most important things I learned when I was collecting wit and wisdom from other authors for Wannabe a Writer? And here’s another one: it really doesn’t matter where you write, or how you write – as long as you do. Frederick Forsyth spends a year researching and thinking about his books and then writes them in 45 days. Freya North doesn’t plan a thing; Katie Fforde makes strange-looking charts. The important thing is that you keep at it and write every day – even if it’s only a sentence.
Even if you have an overwhelming urge to make a Mars Bar Gateau or tidy the airing cupboard instead.
Yes, you’ll get tired and dispirited and fed-up with friends chortling “Ha Ha Ha have you been published yet?” (When you have, they’ll change it to: “Ho ho, have you sold as many as EL James yet?”) (It used to be JK Rowling). You might have a fat butt and a disgruntled family and spend a lot of time muttering and wondering why you do it. (Your partner may demand to know this too.) Especially when you DON”T make a fortune.
You could drink too much, eat too much, forget the shopping and get hooted for at idling at green traffic lights while you day-dream plots. You’ll almost certainly stay up late, have to get up early and never see your friends. But when you do finally see your name in print, it will all – despite poverty and exhaustion – be worth it.
Which is why so many of us HAVE kept going – all the successful authors I’ve ever met also have their rejection tales – and why, if you really want to be published, you should too…
Thank you, Jane. I’m a terrible procrastinator… up to now. 🙂
You can find out more about Jane and her writing via:
- her blog at http://janewenhamjones.wordpress.com
- her tips on trimming the aforementioned writer’s bottom at http://100waystofighttheflab.wordpress.com
- and Jane’s Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Wenham-Jones/e/B001JOYLOM
If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. Guidelines on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/guest-blogs. There are other options listed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/submission-information/opportunities-on-this-blog.
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