Monday, 7 November 2011

Don't Give Up, Keep On Going

A few years back I went to a reunion of my writing group. We'd all done the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa together, and eight of us had continued meeting and critiquing work. But one by one, four had dropped out. So there we were, four actively writing, four not.

Of the four actively writing, two are now published. I'm one of them and was lucky enough to get a publishing deal a year after graduating. The other one had to wait nearly ten years for her publishing deal, but she's got there in the end. The third in our group has had so many near misses - representation by top agent, discussions with editors - that I'm sure the deal will be there for her. The fourth has extremely limited time to write, but is now nearing completion.

All the four who weren't writing said they missed it. They wished they hadn't stopped. They expressed sadness that their creativity wasn't being expressed. One said that she'd been at her happiest when writing...

We often hear about people like me who get published relatively quickly, and forget that for most people it takes much longer than that. They say that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill, so why do we think writing a novel will be any different?

I wouldn't recommend plugging away if you really hated writing - that would be daft. But I think if you're still enjoying the process then don't be too impatient. Enjoy your writing, allow yourself time to develop your skills and above all, be happy.


Karen said...

When I knuckled down and started taking my writing seriously I thought it would only be a matter of time before I was published, especially after some encouraging comments from agents regarding my first-ever novel.

Eight years and a few near misses later I'm still waiting for that elusive (UK!) deal, but can't imagine not writing now.

I do get discouraged at times, but not for long as I love what I do. I figure the only guaranteed way NOT be be published is if I give up - while there's writing there's hope!

JO said...

I'm with Karen - I can't imagine giving up. Getting a book deal would be wonderful - but playing with words is such fun, that is enough to keep me going.

Jim Murdoch said...

I can imagine giving up writing - I'm a writer, I have a good imagination - but I can't imagine giving up writing and feeling complete. I could lose a leg and get by and that's how I'd feel if I could never write. I don't miss composing. I get an incling every now and then but although I enjoyed it and could enjoy it again I was never passionate about it. I agree totally though about the time spent to become good at something and this is what worries me a bit about the whole e-book revolution - it's too damn easy to get something out there before it's ready, before you are ready.

Giles Diggle said...

I agree with your central message Sarah, speaking as someone who has found a love of writing again. But it has come with finding the time.

I had three books for YA published by Faber in quick succession in my late thirties, now 20 years ago. Then I fell foul of three book deal syndrome - exhaustion, the reversion of all rights and the need to make money.

In short I went back to a career. Now I have taken early retirement and write five days a week. I finished a YA novel in August. It is now looking for a home. It might not find one.

The writing is good, but the story might not be a hit in the changing market. I have no evidence that there is ageism in the business of acquisitions and I look on people kindly, but I suspect that it might be another challenge. I am 59.

However, I do believe as I did when I was an innocent in the book world that a good story will find a way. Meanwhile, I have found a love of writing that is sweeter than when I was first published... and I probably have even more determination this time around!