amwriting · contemporary · ebook · romance · science fiction · Writing experiences

How your first novel shapes you…

I may be repeating myself here but it needs saying. It does need saying. Again. A lot of first novels get consigned to the bin. One bestselling author I talked to wrote five novels before he got “published”. All the others may never see the light of day. I hear Hilary Mantel wrote dozens before getting “published”. “Published”: here I am referring to getting that elusive traditional publishing deal. Many hold out for this because to be an Indie means being very brave, or simply believing you have some words people may enjoy. Many writers can probably say… we wrote something and binned it at one time or another. We went on and wrote other things that we thought were better.

My first novel was so far from perfect. In fact it was the hardest novel I ever wrote and will always be because I started writing with an idea but no notion of how to set out the threads that weaved from that initial strain. Some of you might remember me saying that I wrote it while I was on maternity leave. I look back now and with hindsight, I actually don’t know how I accomplished what I did.

One thing I refuse to do is take myself seriously. There are so many, many writers now and it is amazing if you can get a small, loyal following. If you have that, pat yourselves on the back. It is an admirable thing to get something written down let alone published, whether by traditional or any other route. I think of things in terms of my own, personal victories sometimes, because often that is enough for the time being. Now I look back, I realise there were so many times I could have given up and given in. So many points along the road where I was tired, dejected, feeling unappreciated. Wondering what the point was. Whether anybody even cared. My husband always cared but yeah, that is his job. So then… when other people started caring too… that gave me something else. A bit more of an edge. I had to tell myself “you wrote a bloody novel when you had never even written anything creative before!” It was true. Yes, I was a journalist. Yes, I had an English degree. Yes, I have a way with words… that much was clear when I returned to work after maternity to find about six people doing a job I used to do singularly. But a novel is such a different ballgame… I had written a few fictional pieces in my youth and a bit of poetry but I hadn’t even really attempted a short story before I wrote Beneath the Veil.

There has to be so much self-belief. So much self-motivation. It is such a lonely game, such a weary, lonesome road to travel. I am a humble person (I actually am!), but when it comes to self-publishing apparently showing off is essential because nobody will listen if you don’t believe in the first place! I had to change from that humble, carefree “so what, who cares” type person to what I am now, which is a forthright, “here is my book and I flipping believe in it and will fight for it” type hybrid writer/promoter! I am still learning, bloody hell don’t get me wrong, I am still learning there!

Truth was my first novel (to me, back then, when I first started writing) was just a little challenge to myself to see what I could do for myself for a change. I never anticipated what I would turn out. Not in a million years would I have been able to foresee what I could achieve without first giving it a try. I never expected what happened – to actually happen. Never.

I didn’t give up on my first novel because it was such a rush, such a monumental period of creativity I couldn’t pass up. I was taken by an idea for a future world and it took me along for the ride. I just knew I had to get it down, it was then or never. It was all ready in my mind, waiting, to be written down. Sometimes you sit having to force the words. With my first novel, I couldn’t contain them. I itched to write, to scribble, to get it all down. It is great to be able to say, “I wrote erotica that people see as more than just erotica”. But it will be even better when my science-fiction gets me more notice because in actual fact, that is more me. You see, my first words were my truest and I will always gravitate back to them.

I have spent the first part of this year revising this first novel because I felt it was time. I felt there was more. There is still more… more future novels. The reason why I went back is because the prequels have to match the sequels now. There is so much I want to tell you all, and I will, in good time.

We wouldn’t have had A Fine Profession if I hadn’t gotten over that first hurdle of the first novel. Nor would Warrick Jones be breaking hearts either, if I hadn’t carried on, kept the faith, kept writing, knuckled down. Each time I finish a novel I prepare myself for the slump and the possibility that I might not have any more in the tank. I might not have the urge to keep going. I am a realist and sometimes, it just ain’t happening. The pen does not want to move. Yet, always, when I am least looking – I find something else to do. To explore. My first novel taught me that… you start with a singular notion and you let it run riot from there. You don’t stop until you have exhausted every possibility in your mind. I learnt to stop looking to myself for the inspiration and look at the world. The “shaping a novel into a smooth ride” thing, that comes later. Worry about it then…!

More to come…

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