“I’ve always wanted to write a book. But I’m just too busy at the moment!”
The intimation is clear - writing a publishable book is easy, anyone can do it. All you need is the time. But maybe I’m being unfair. There are many people who want to write. And, although it’s not unknown, it’s an unusual writer who doesn’t want a mainstream publishing deal. Publication is validation of the creative impulse which made you give a year or more of your life to the book you’ve just finished. You want people to read what you’ve written. You want to feel you haven’t been wasting your time.
The original idea that I might actually try to write for publication was decades before digital was even a gleam in anyone’s eye. The idea came to me while I was ironing. I suddenly thought: ‘I used to write romances when I was a teenager, I’m sure I could knock off a Mills & Boon now.’ (Famous last words!) As soon as the ironing was put away I found a note book and pen, and started. I found a publisher almost immediately after I’d finished that first book, Just Before Dawn (although not Mills & Boon), but it was only after my publisher failed - two books later - that I began to learn what a hard business I’d got myself into. But by then I was hooked.
As every year passes, the road to publication has only got longer, harder and more stony. And when you think you’re almost at the door you’re faced with high brick ramparts. I know. I’ve beaten my head against them for long enough! And even if you’re lucky enough to get a mainstream publishing deal, it’s far from guaranteed to make you a living, let alone wealthy. Those who believe having a book published is the route to fame and fortune need to be put straight. For every J K Rowling there are many thousands who struggle, whose income from writing is only enough to feed the cat, whose contracts lapse and are not renewed. Anyway, you’re more likely to get a mainstream publishing deal if you are already famous and, preferably, young and good-looking!
Your new friend may say: “But self-publishing is easy these days. Look at Amanda Hocking.” Technically it is easy, but to create more than the tiniest ripple you need to work very very hard at the promotion and marketing side of the business. Either that or walk through a magic fairy dust storm. (And by the way, if anyone has a weather forecast for when and where the next MFD storm is likely to occur I’d be more than interested to know.
To be writer you have to be tenacious, resilient, a bit selfish and very obsessive! You write because you have to. And you’ve got to be like one of those wobbly men with a silly grin on his face. He can easily be knocked down, but he’ll spin and fall over and bump his head on the floor, then he’ll always bounce back up, the silly grin still in place.
So when that inevitable introduction happens, and you’re faced with the wannabe writer who thinks it’s all going to be so easy, clench your teeth and keep your hands tightly clasped behind your back. Instead of saying something rude or punching her on the nose, be kind, but tell her some of the above home truths. Most importantly, in my view, if she’s really truly serious about writing a book, she won’t wait until the children are off her hands, until she has more free time, until she’s given up the day job. She’ll start now. If she’s got it in her she’ll find a way. I would say that, wouldn’t I? It’s what I did.