This time last year I made a new years resolution that I would move one step closer to being an author. There’s something sad about reaching the end of that year, and still being unpublished. But then my resolution wasn’t to get published, it was to start building the road towards being published. And I have definitely laid the foundations, if not the first few blocks.
I used to think that all I had to do to get published was write a book. Then send it to a publishing house, who would be thrilled and invite me around for tea. And I guess some people do succeed the first time around with little input from the outside world. But it turned out my first book was rubbish, and it has taken me awhile to reach a standard that I’m proud of. When I began writing, I had no writing resume, no English and Literature degree hanging on my wall. On the contrary, I’ve spent the last 11 years as a nurse, a hands-on shift work job. The only writing involved was the legal recording of the days events.
The first time I discovered that being a writer is a business and you need to know what you’re doing, was when I went to a ‘Getting Published’ event in the Cork World Book Festival, facilitated by Vanessa O’Loughlin. I first went to this in 2014, deadly proud that I’d written my first 30,000 words in a serious bid to become a writer. I didn’t have a clue, and half of what was said was like a foreign language. Voice? What was that? I was like a duck out of water, staring at a huge pond and realising that this was something I wanted, and needed, to be a part of.
When I went back to the same workshop in 2015 after much research and reading, I understood everything Vanessa said. It made my heart leap. Like any business, it takes time and effort. Part of this effort meant getting involved in the writing community. I started going to events, book festivals, the CBI conference, twitter chats, talking to other writers. The knowledge started seeping in by osmosis. I still didn’t get as involved as I would have liked to, between two small kids, a job and a marriage, but I did my best. Every event taught me something, and still does, which shows there is more to learn.
One of the best things about this year has been the books I’ve read. I began reading books based on recommendations, books I read about on twitter and in newspapers. In particular, books that other writers raved about. This introduced me to high quality children’s and Y.A fiction. I saw an immediate improvement in my own writing when I started striving for those high standards.
I also started sharing my work, putting it out into the open to be assessed and criticised. Through submissions, a Reader’s Report, making writer friends and asking advice, I have watched my writing change. I have embraced the fact that I need people to be brave enough to kick my novel in the face. And I recognise that it’s not the same as kicking me in the face. Quite the opposite, the more kicks my novel gets, the prettier it becomes. Unlike my face.
In terms of getting published, I didn’t succeed in any of my novels, but I also knew I wasn’t ready to saturate the slush pile world just yet. I’m taking it slowly, submitting bit by bit, reading every bit of feedback and editorial advice over and over until my eyes blur. I did get a few articles published online, which is a start. I also did the story board for a children’s story app that got published by a New York app. publisher. A writer’s resume needs to be created, and it takes time, so every little helps.
Most of all this year, I made a commitment. I accepted that writing is my passion, that I go a bit doo-la-lee when I don’t do it, and that it has become my way to escape the world. Like any relationship, it improves with time but only with work and dedication.
Next year? Well it starts with a creative writing course in UCC. It also involves my new house with a study dedicated to my writing (commitment or what?). It will involve new events and more chats about books over coffee and twitter. Most importantly, it will include more writing. And when I look back, this time next year, I hope to be able to say that I laid more blocks on the road. And even if there are a few stop signs along the way, I know I’ll enjoy the journey.