As I came into publication week for my very first published novella, I thought to myself about how my writing journey has gone so far. It started oddly, spurred on by my fortieth birthday and the realisation that I had not yet written a book, despite it being my only real ambition. I recall my English teacher telling me that I would make a great writer when I was sixteen. I studied English at A-Level and loved playing around with words and language in general. It took me a while to actually get around to putting pen to paper (or fingers to ipad) and get down to that first draft. I know now, no matter how successful I am (or not), I am going to be a writer from now on. I love it!
I began by attending a writing group in my home town. It was lovely to meet other people who wanted to write, either for fun or professionally and I learned a lot every time they shared their work and together we unpicked and celebrated each piece with the tutor. I read out a chapter that I had written, dallying with the idea of growing it into a story one day. They liked it and it seemed to flow, so I carried on writing chapters for a bit. At the same time, I toyed with short stories. The first one was called ‘The Oddest of Dates’ so I kept with this theme and wrote a whole collection of stories about dating, love and loss. This was then published on Amazon as my self-pub debut. I enjoyed the feedback and used no marketing. It was wonderful to see about fifty people buy it and explore my little stories and this made me want to present another chapter from my story to the writing class. Again this was well received and so I carried on writing. I knew it would be a novella as the story was clear and crisp and I had no need to stretch it out for hundreds of pages. The story told itself. Writing that novella was the best experience for me. I was surprised by how the story just flowed and how easy it was to convey.
Then came the editing. By this time, due to timetabling issues, I had not been able to keep going to the writing group but I was very grateful for my time there. I spent a while going over my story and making tweaks and checking that everything fitted together without timelines clashing. One of my biggest issues was I sometimes forgot who was related to whom and I had to double check I had used the right character names throughout. I remember accidentally writing a letter from a character and not noticing that I had put the same name at the top and bottom of it. Essentially, she had written to herself.
When I was happy, I approached a small publishing firm and they agreed to publish it, if on a relatively small scale. It would be mainly available online as an ebook and paperback (print on demand). After having them format it and edit it before proposing what I wanted the cover art to be like, they came up with a lovely design which brought tears to my eyes.
Now, my book is published and out there awaiting book bloggers to examine it and reviewers to sample it. Fingers crossed you like it.
My top tips for writing are:
1) Get someone to read your chapters one at a time and check for fluidity as well as consistency of characters, times and viewpoint.
2) Leave the manuscript alone for a few weeks after you finish it, before beginning the editing process.
3) While you are writing, build up a good rapport with people from the reading community on social media and ensure you develop your network.