Is Being Published the Be All and End All?

HATE musicals with a passion. And yet, I have a fond childhood memory of watching South Pacific with my gran and the catchy lyrics of the show song, ‘Happy Talk’ being forever lodged in my brain,
“You got to have a dream, if you don’t have a dream
How you gonna have a dream come true?” 

The message is simple and one that I apply to my writing. Ever since I started to take my writing seriously, my dream has always to be published (in the traditional sense).  There are many aspiring writers who will say that it’s not important for them to get published. Or so they say. They claim to write for the love of the art form, blah blah blah. Am I one of those writers? No. And I’m not ashamed to admit that being published is a key goal. It’s not the be all and end all, but for me it still matters. Will I keep writing if I don’t get published? Yes, absolutely and for many other good reasons.  But will I give up on my publishing dream?Not on your Nelly!

I wasn’t the only aspiring writer in the family sharing this dream- I had competition. My 9 year old nephew, Ryan is also a prolific writer of poems and short stories.  One of the best Christmas presents was his own reworked version of a Christmas Carol (his 7 year old brother, Frazer was the illustrator).

His current WIP is his novel, ‘The Last Dinosaur ‘and I joked that his writing would probably be published before mine.  We decided to make it a challenge. I’m a bad loser but I had to admit defeat when Ryan produced a letter saying that one of his poems is due to be published in an anthology. Is it wrong to be even a teeny weeny bit jealous? Of course it is, even for a poor loser like me, that would just be pathetic. I’m well chuffed for him but Ryan’s victory was followed by an email from my agent; one that I had feared might land in my inbox.

Ryan goading  me  with showing me the letter from his publisher!
This time last year, my literary agent was sending out my last novel to publishers. I got some really great feedback but ultimately there was no book deal at the end of it. My agent then went on maternity leave and everything was put on hold until she returned to work at the beginning of the year. Then I got the email…

“I think at this point, very sadly, we need to draw a line under it. The business is moving fast with the rise of e-books and the continued growth of Amazon, creating less space for smaller books and generally an enforced sense of competition and that each book must stand out very robustly to the shrinking of margins and of retail display space.”

Was I gutted? Hell yeah. But the upside is that she still has faith in me and wants to see my WIP when it’s finished. In the meantime, I’m hoping Ryan will look kindly on his struggling auntie and share some of the secrets of his success. In the meantime, I need to dust myself off and keep on trying because,”You got to have a dream…”

Writing and 2012 – New Year and a New Me!

For many people, it’s that time of year again for coming up with New Year’s resolutions.  And for most, it’s the same list, just a different year.

I’m very much a ‘Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today’ person- leaving my job to go to uni is a prime example. I’m good at being bossy taking control of my life, except in one area- my health. I’m not usually a big fan of New Year resolutions. I don’t need it to be the 31st of December for me to realise that I need to get some exercise (the only time my heart’s raced recently is at the 50% off signs at the sales) and to eat/drink healthier (I know that just because it’s ‘diet’ Irn Bru, it doesn’t make it good for me). The book on my profile pic helps to hide several chins (but it’s hard to constantly walk around with a book in front of me, and it can be dangerous when near traffic!).

And this year, I’m looking at the whole process from an entirely new perspective (wheezing at the top of the uni stairs). Last December, there was as much chance of me returning to uni to do a writing course as there was of finding a vegetarian pit bull terrier.  But now as a mature student, it has made me take a fresh look at my new lifestyle as an aspiring writer. And a doctor’s appointment gave me a reality check.

Now that I actually have an excuse to sit on my fat backside every day, I really do need to think seriously about beating the bulge before my rear end had its own postcode. Losing my tractor sized spare tyre will also mean I can get nearer my laptop and literally closer to my work in progress. A writer is supposed to avoid clichés but I’m making my main resolution to lose weight. Slimming World will have a new member on Wednesday night (after a final Hogmanay binge, well I am Scottish- it’s the law here!). 

It seems  that I’m not alone with this problem. In Jane Wenham-Jones’s excellent book, ‘Wannabe a Writer?’ she even devotes a large section of the chapter, ‘Occupational Hazards’ to ‘Writer’sBottom’ and shares her very funny dietary tips. My favourite being, “Have lotsof great sex. (N.B. If you’re married, best not to let your husband or wife find out.)”

But apart from the usual physical health resolutions, this year, as an aspiring writer, I’ve added another three psychological goals.

1.      Avoiding folk who might judge me on whether or not I should be doing a uni course with no guaranteed job/career prospects at the end of it.

2.      Sending my inner critic on an extended holiday and growing thicker skin (but with a thinner person inside).

3.      Believing in myself as a writer and adopting a “fake it till you make it” strategy in the meantime. 

“Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.”- Oprah Winfrey