When my Amazon parcel arrived I practically ripped it out of the postman’s hands. I opened ‘Writing a novel and getting it published for Dummies’, cast a casual eye over the first three chapters and I was good to go.
I mean, I’d read books. I’d been reading books since I was four years old. How hard could actually writing one be?
Fast forward to five months later to Friday 7th September 2012. I stood over my printer, urging it to go faster. There were only two hours until I was due to take my place on Debi Alper’s mini self-editing course at the Festival of Writing and the damn thing was on a go-slow. I was half-tempted to leave without it. But then I remembered that agents would be clambering to get their hands on fresh talent like mine.
Finally my manuscript was ready. I jumped in the car, drove like a lunatic to York and plonked myself in the third row.
‘Here are some of the common mistakes made by first time writers…’ began Debi.
Needless to say, the manuscript did not see the light of day that weekend. On the plus side, we had some lovely A4 paper to light the fire with for the whole of winter.
I waited with slightly smug, baited breath for the response. A month later it arrived. I poured myself a coffee and sat down with the twenty-one page report.
First came the pounding heart, then the prickly scalp and finally the tears. I shall reduce the report into one damning sentence: ‘Whilst the novel clearly has potential, it requires a radical re-write.’
Horror, disbelief, denial and finally, by the next morning, acceptance. The report was right, I could see that now. I sat at my computer, completely despondent. Could I really face re-writing the book? Again? Maybe I was simply a crap writer, maybe the second book I’d just finished drafting would be pants too? Perhaps I should give it up as a bad job and forget all about it.
This was my Black Moment.
As luck would have it, the very second after I considered throwing the towel in, I spotted, through red-rimmed eyelids, a tweet announcing that there were still places left on The Writers’ Workshop online self-editing course. If this had had happened in a novel, readers would scoff and roll their eyes at the coincidence. Luckily we’re talking about my life, so I was able to enrol on the course immediately to solve a hole in my own plot.
And this is where the story starts going right.
The course turned my writing around. I learned a phenomenal amount in six weeks and in fact, because of the enormous amount of resources provided by Debi Alper and Emma Darwin, I’m still learning now. But the course gave me more than knowledge, it gave me the confidence to keep on writing, to understand that writing is re-writing and that a first draft is almost nothing more than a note to self about the sort of book you want to write. And as well as all this, I met other wonderful, generous people, who gave me feedback, said nice things and generally cheered me on to keep going.
This year when I attended the Festival of Writing in York, I didn’t have to keep my manuscript hidden in my room for fear of ridicule. I had an actual three hundred and sixty seven page paperback to wave in front of people.
I published my novel Conditional Love on October 4th on Createspace. At the time of writing this blog post, it is number 9 in the Amazon chart for humour/love, sex and marriage category, and is in the Kindle top 40 for both romantic comedy and humour and I am feeling very fortunate.
The Writers’ Workshop has done me proud, I genuinely couldn’t have done it without them. My writing journey is well and truly underway and I can’t wait to see what the future brings.