Written your first novel? Had a few rejections? Not sure what to do next? Need to read an article that just might motivate you?
A few years ago, I featured the very lovely Rosemary Dun on this very blog. Then, she was an unpublished author waiting for her ‘big break’ and now, it’s finally arrived… in the form of THE SAME PUBLISHERS WHO PUBLISH J.K. ROWLING!
But I’ll let her tell you all about all that…
When Lola invited me to write for her blog I was delighted, and then I thought, crikey, where to start?
I could talk about my novel The Trouble With Love, tell you what it’s about, and how I wanted my characters – Polly and Spike and the others – to live and breathe and love. I could talk of the central romance, of the often hilarious trials of dating as a single parent, of mother/ daughter relationships, of the challenges of having a child who’s hard of hearing; I could talk of wanting to write about modern families – the melded, step, traditional, and single ones, or I could talk of second chances and the many troubles of love.
Instead, I’ve decided to talk about how I came to be in the pond (all will become clear . . .) and how Polly and Spike’s journey was woven into mine.
Polly first made an appearance in my life in a short story I wrote (she was younger then). I liked her, and she seemed to like me too, as she stayed around, in my head demanding for her story to be told – but bigger!
So began the first version of The Trouble With Love – featuring Polly and Spike. I loved the characters, thought the novel worked, and when finished, I sent it out to agents. The response was lukewarm, along the lines of, ‘You write well, we like Polly, but it doesn’t fit our list …’ And then I received one which said, ‘Enjoyed this in parts, you can write, but at the end I thought, so what?’
Hm. I could have given up, but I wasn’t going to. OK – those two words stung at the time, but this “So What?” agent did me a favour, because I reread the novel with fresh eyes and realised she was right: my characters hadn’t undergone sufficient change, things happened to them (they weren’t driving the plot), and at the end they were the same people as at the beginning (where was their emotional journey?) I could see what she meant, and could only agree with that So What?
I wasn’t about to give up on Polly, and she didn’t give up on me, as she kept jabbing away at my subconscious, jabbering away in my inner ear, demanding to be written.
No way was I going to give up. Not this close to achieving my dream of being a published novelist! Time for me to dig deeper.
I tried several new beginnings (but it was going nowhere), I attended creative writing master classes, read how to books, learned more and more about my craft and about the dramatic structure. Basically, I learned how to structure and plot by learning from those who’d gone before, and by actually writing my novel, and embracing what Anne Lamott calls that “shitty first draft”.
Not that it was plain sailing. In my personal life I had a marriage break-up to contend with, single motherhood to navigate, a demented parent to cope with and I became chronically ill. But I kept on writing, accepting that it would just take me longer than most; that my journey would have more twists and turns; that I would travel at a slower speed than some, but that if I kept going, I’d get there. Which I did!
Because – joyously – the news arrived! A book contract with Sphere! With Sphere of Little, Brown – wow! The same publishers as JK Rowling and Val McDermid and so many other writers I admire.
At first I didn’t fully realise how big a deal this was. Then I told a friend about it, tempering my success by saying how I was a little fish in a big pond. ‘You idiot,’ she said. ‘You’re in the pond! You’re in the frickin’ pond!!!’
*For a limited period, grab a copy of The Trouble With Love for only 99p !!