I’d always wanted to be a writer – from about the time I was seven – but like a lot of people, I had no idea where to start.
School is great for telling you exactly what you have to do to be a doctor, lawyer, scientist, engineer etc., but it can only offer general pointers to people who want to be writers, video artists, baristas and other slightly left-field things.
When I was 17, it seemed possible to combine a career as a lawyer with a career as a writer. But I ended up in the kind of law firm where you risk having your car towed away at 6am because you’ve left it out on the street in front of the office all night. The novels I was writing in those days were falling short of the mark. My creative brain and legal brain were pulling in different directions, so I gave myself a couple of years off law to try and make a go of it, and I’m happy to say that I haven’t gone back (yet!).
I was lucky enough to have a four book series of humorous detective stories for middle readers picked up by an Australian publisher. And that was the start of it. It’s weird, but it feels as if you can’t get published unless you’ve been published before, or have a really pushy agent, so that first break seems so crucial.
What I’ve learnt so far about becoming a published author can be distilled down into a handful of things:
1. Be prepared to work hard and swallow rejection as if it has the power to do you good. Even after a famous literary agent gets his “summer temp receptionist” to email you to tell you that the agent can’t muster sufficient enthusiasm to even read your proposal, you just have to pick yourself up off the floor, stop wailing “Why me?” and just keep going.
2. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read without fear or favour. What I mean by that is, don’t be a book snob who only “does” one type of book. I know plenty of adults who only read “literature”, and boy, are they missing out. You get the best out of reading, and writing, if you remain open minded. The stuff people do to each other in the real world is pretty staggering. There are lots of story ideas swirling around out in the real world every single day. Don’t just read the critically acclaimed books and commercial successes. There is no formula, which leads me to my next point.
3. Write as differently as you can. Just be you. If you want your work to last the distance and not be dismissed as a clone of someone else’s work, just do the best stuff you, and you alone, are capable of.
4. Be prepared to take criticism – whether from a potential publisher, your editors, or the public. The act of reading is a very personal thing and the flipside of creating any kind of art is opening yourself up to a dialogue with your audience. Most editors and publishers are actually there to help you. Most readers want to be treated as sophisticated, intelligent and engaged people who are willing to be challenged. There will always be a small minority of readers who intensely dislike a challenge and who will always read with blinkers on. If your book is savaged by someone because it doesn’t accord exactly with that person’s world view / politics / religious beliefs / prejudices, get past it, move on and keep working.
It always boils down to the work. If you care about being the best writer you can be and doing the best work you can, you will draw a readership. And always remember that it’s a privilege for a writer to be given the chance to connect with people and tell them a story that (hopefully) might move them, or make them think, or make them want to read just one more chapter before they turn out the light.
Now for the giveaway! Thanks to Authors On The Web, I have two copies of Mercy by Rebecca Lim to giveaway. To enter, just leave a comment with a valid e-mail address.
Open to US/Canada.
Must leave valid e-mail address.
Will run through Tuesday May 31st at midnight.
Winners will be chosen with Random.org on June 1st.
Author: Rebecca Lim
Genre: Paranormal Young Adult
Release Date: 05/17/11 (today!)
But the Book:
A fallen angel haunted by her past. Yearning for her immortal beloved. Forever searching for answers.Who will show her Mercy?
Mercy has lost herself. She can’t count how many times she’s “woken up” in a new body, and assumed a new life, only to move on again and again. During the day she survives in the human world on instinct and at night her dreams are haunted by him. Mercy’s heart would know him anywhere. But her memory refuses to cooperate.
But this time is different. When Mercy wakes up she meets Ryan, an eighteen year old reeling from the loss of his twin sister who was kidnapped two years ago. Everyone else has given up hope, but Ryan believes his sister is still alive. Using a power she doesn’t fully comprehend, Mercy realizes that Ryan is right. His sister is alive and together they can find her. For the first time since she can remember, Mercy has a purpose; she can help. So she doesn’t understand why the man in her dreams cautions her not to interfere. But as Ryan and Mercy come closer to solving the dark mystery of his sister’s disappearance, danger looms just one step behind.
Will Mercy be able to harness her true self and extraordinary power in time?
The first in a dazzling new series, Mercy masterfully weaves romance, mystery and the supernatural into a spell-binding tale.