Over the years I’ve written short stories, songs, attempted a ‘horror’ novel and also humour. Having a family put a stop to my endeavours and it was only when my children were older that I reached for the pen again. But even with older children, as so many will know, juggling work commitments and domestic duties is incredibly challenging and I realised after nearly two years of patchy attempts that if I didn’t make a determined effort, I would never finish the novel I had begun. For three months, I ignored all but essential housework, fed the family on convenience food (which was largely burned) and worked every hour I could grab.
When I finally wrote ‘The End’ on the last page of Monstrous Souls, it was one of the best feelings I have ever experienced. I had no idea if the result of my toil was of any value and so I sent it off to a few kind friends who had offered to read. The feedback was encouraging enough for me to edit again and submit to agents. Although it received some interest, ultimately there were huge flaws in the story and the structure, but I wasn’t ready to give up just yet.
Writing can be a very solitary pursuit so I began to take part in the CB Creative agency’s monthly, mini-story competitions on Twitter. Through this, I met some serious fellow writers who, like me, were hoping for that breakthrough moment. A few of us formed a group; that was 18 months ago and we now talk every day and help each other with beta reading, pitches and query letters, and have lots of fun too! We met in ‘real life’ last year for the book launch of the first of our writers to secure publication.
The contact with other writers was hugely helpful in keeping me at the laptop when all the words seemed wrong! Meanwhile, I continued to edit Monstrous Souls, which I sent back out into the world last year and was utterly thrilled when Agora made me an offer. At this stage, I had gained many more writing skills and looking back at that first draft, I realised just how kind those first friends had been!
When people ask me what it takes to be a writer, I think there are several things that are important: firstly reading as much as you can (and particularly in the genre that you think your book falls in to), the ability to be self-critical and to take criticism from people whose judgement you trust, and finally, tenacity – it’s very easy to give up when you get the inevitable rejections, and it can take courage to carry on, but that decision can be so rewarding.
Ultimately however, I realise that I love writing and would do it now regardless of publication, and I get great satisfaction even from the pieces I produce that I know will never see the light of day.