Before I was published I went to writing groups and talks about writing. I found writing friends and set up workshopping groups. I devoured every article or book I could read on How to Get Published. I researched agents. It was a happy time, endlessly absorbing with, at the end of it, at some unspecified date, the prospect of publication.
It was a bit like being pregnant. Suddenly anything and everything to do with pregnancy – a subject which I had previously avoided – became endlessly interesting. Every twinge was fascinating, every new development to be pored over and discussed with my NCT group. Then, finally, the great day came and at the end of it I had a baby. After the euphoria had died down and I was left alone with my vulnerable little son I was suddenly struck with the awful thought: I’ve got to look after him for the next twenty years or so.
When you get published you’re taken over by the wonderfulness of what has just happened to you. You sidle round bookshops rearranging the shelves so your novel faces out, and have your picture taken in Sainsburys against the book section. You start a scrap book with every press cutting, every scrap of promotional material you can find lovingly stuck in with Pritt stick. Enjoy it. It will never be like this again.
I’m not being cynical, it’s just that once you’ve got published, it’s like holding the baby in your arms and realising you’ve hardly thought about what was going to happen next. Because what happens next in writing is you’ve got to produce another book, and then another. One a year for commercial fiction, longer for literary fiction. It becomes a job. A fascinating job complete with an adrenaline rush – closer to a high wire act than the checkout – but it’s still a job. So, even if you’re desperate for publication, take time to enjoy the process. Believe it or not, one day you may be looking back wistfully at those happier, simpler times before you got published.