I was just 23 years old when I signed my first book deal. Twenty three.
Working as a journalist and living in a grotty house share, I was so young and naïve it actually scares me to look back at this time. How did I survive?
My cooking abilities were so laughable it’s a wonder I attained basic nutrition. I wasn’t brilliantly practical either. If dumped in the jungle for a Bear Grylls-type challenge I would’ve likely been deceased within 24-hours, but might have left behind a rather nice poem.
Now a little older, supposedly wiser, able to cook and assemble flat pack furniture – and four novels deep – I’m delighted to be sharing my ‘inescapable truths of being a published writer’, with the Curtis Brown Book Group blog.
If you’re a fellow novelist, I’d love to know if you’ve experienced these too. Perhaps you have different truths to share? Tweet me @Jthompsonauthor
- The more books you publish, the less sure you become.
When I completed the manuscript for my debut novel ‘This is a Love Story’, I never in a fafillion years imagined I would be capable of three more (WTF).
Now I’ve written four, I’m already worrying about the next ones…
I can only imagine these kinds of feelings will never go away, which sounds distressing, however I think they are essential and positive. Without them, the drive to continually grow and develop, would die.
Stay curious about what you’re capable of.
- You’ve not even slightly made it.
As embarrassing as this is to admit, my early twenties brain having just digested the news that I was to be published by an imprint of Hodder and freaking Stoughton, did instantly raise the following question.
‘Does this mean I’ve ‘made it’?!’
Cringe. The answer is a resounding no.
It’s a wonderful, special and life-changing achievement to be published, and not something to be taken for granted. Ever. But a new kind of journey often starts here, and it’s likely to be a very bumpy ride! Ups and downs a plenty, take it all as it comes. You’re probably going to make some mistakes and there will be a lot of uncertainty.
Unless you’re a rare, overnight sensation, you’ll probably be a teeny tiny fish in a vast ocean of more experienced writers, and the best thing you can do is listen and learn from the best.
Remember, it’s easy to assume all success stories have been quick, smooth and easy. This is hardly ever the case. People don’t talk so much about the things that went wrong.
- Never stop learning.
And on the ‘learning’ note, being a writer is not something you just ‘achieve’, whether you’re published or not. Practice, all the time. Write scary things, happy things, sad things… Write all the things.
It’s a lifelong learning curve. You’ll grow and you’ll change, just like you will as a person. It takes many varied life experiences, and years of expressing yourself through words and perfecting your craft to truly understand what you can do.
Looking at it that way, it’s actually a really exciting thought! How many other things stay and grow with you like that?
- The first bad review will hurt.
Family and friends warned me repeatedly about this. I also questioned my brilliant agent (Curtis Brown’s very own Sheila Crowley) who was really chilled, and said that absolutely everyone gets ‘bad’ reviews. I felt pretty sure I could handle it.
But then, POOF! The first one appeared, as irritating and inevitable as a mozzie bite on holiday, and I had a mini meltdown.
I rang Sheila. She was amazing, and then I got over it.
Furthermore, some constructive reviews include things you can really learn from (which all contributes to making you a better, stronger, more kick ass writer, right?).
Anyway, you get much tougher, very fast, and it really doesn’t matter all that much.
- Hearing from readers never stops feeling like magic.
From the very first time a reader made the effort to get in touch with me on Twitter or Facebook to tell me their thoughts, to the present day when this happens, this experience has never stopped being humbling and wonderful.
I simply cannot thank my readers enough for taking time from their busy lives to read my books, and share their stories with me.
Without readers, are we really writers? It’s just incredible, and a true privilege. Thank you, thank you, thank you…