And now the pulling out of hair begins.

So that’s it.  It’s been four years of hard slog, four years of teaching myself new skills, four years of learning to truly loathe my own creation due to massive, over exposure.  But finally my first novel Strawberry Kisses is ready for submission to agents and publishers.  Great, but what now?

Well let’s start with how sick I am of hearing the question, “Have you a publisher yet?”  No I don’t. I’m not kidding when I say it’s taken me four years ’til this day to write my first novel.  And it took that length of time for one simple reason, I didn’t know how to write anything beyond an essay.

Before now I had never written anything longer than 10,000 words.  Strawberry Kisses however comes in at a hefty 127,000 words, that’s the writing equivalent of running a mile a day, then deciding to run a marathon with no further training.  You simply don’t know if you can do it, until you’ve done it.  But discovering if you are in fact able to, at best takes a long time and at worst is a painfully, disappointing experience.

Worse still writing a novel requires some really surprising skills.  Well for me it does anyway.  Not least is the ability to write with no paper, no pens, no keyboard.  The ability to write long passages in your head while you wash the crockery, walk the dog, even while you sit on the toilet, and then to remember those passages precisely as you “wrote” them when you finally do sit down to your prefered medium.  That skill alone took months for me to master.  How about using a word processor efficiently?  I thought I could until I started writing a novel.  I very quickly discovered I couldn’t. That too was a skill that took time to learn.

Then there’s the skill of laying out a novel, planning each scene, each character.  Laying out your chapter plan, with enough detail that your final destination is reached in a consistent and believable fashion, while allowing yourself enough wiggle room to incorporate new ideas.  Writing dialogue, writing both location and character descriptions. learning to make your language consistent.

All these skills and dozens more take a lot of time and almost herculean mental and physical effort to first learn and then to even vaguely approach mastery.

Hell when I started I didn’t even know what “double spacing” meant.  And no it doesn’t mean what you probably think it does.

Four years.  Four years of having to care about every aspect of my characters.  Four years of worrying if my descriptions of any given location were consistent.  Four years of going over my manuscript again and again and again and again.  Four years of really thinking about very little else.  Four years of well-meaning people asking me the same questions over and over.   Making me feel worse about myself and my work with each repetition.  Why?  Because the answer was always another “No”.

But the worst part comes now.  Now I have to sell the damn thing.  And somehow get the best price I can for four years of hard work.  And while I do that I have to get my next book down on paper.  I can’t stop writing and wait on a book deal, because that deal may never come.  In fact statistically it’s unlikely to ever come.  The horrifying fact is that no matter how good your work is, most authors never get published.  They write a single book and bank their whole literary future on that one roll of the dice.  Worse still it could be my fifth, my tenth even my twentieth novel that finally gets me that longed for book deal.

The last four years have taught me to be a writer.  The next four will probably revolve around learning to first be a better writer, then an author and then finally, with a great deal of luck, a published author.

How do I define the difference between those three?

Simple, almost anyone can be a writer, it’s a physical and mental skill set that allows someone the ability to put their thoughts on paper.  That’s not to say that simply having the skills means that they will be a good writer.  Like with anything else, being good at what you do comes only with time and intense dedication to your craft.

An author is the person who writes one book, then another, then another.  They find themselves unconsciously writing every spare waking second of every day.  If they’re staring into space then odds are they’re writing.  If they’re doing the daily chores, odds are they’re writing as they do them.  Writing, literary creation comes to them in the same way as breathing does.  Again all based on the same learned skill set.  But usually an improved set, that improvement based on determination to perfect, and excel beyond what they initially believed was perfection in their craft.

The published author, well she’s simply the writer who became an author, who somehow found the sheer tenacity to keep on beating her head off of a brick wall, until the wall eventually crumbled and finally gave her the shot at success her hard gained skills have earned her.

So four long years gone and what have I to show for it?

A manuscript that is as close to perfect as I can make it with my current skills.

The knowledge and experience to be able to write my next novel, perhaps in as little was an eighth of the time my first took.

The confidence to know that I can write something substantial.

And more than anything the will to be successful in my chosen art form.  Even if it does end up taking me twenty attempts to break into the pubic eye.

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2 Comments to “And now the pulling out of hair begins.”

  1. Good luck with your pitching! And remember to take time out to celebrate your achievement in writing the book before you try and sell it.

    Also, this guy – http://misterkristoff.wordpress.com/category/writing-stuff/ – is not only ten shades of awesome and a great mate of mine, his blog has some solid gold advice on selling your manu. Comb through the archives, it’s well worth it.

    • Thanks Sadhbh, Yeah I sorta semi-celebrated by watching “What a Girl Wants”, which I know is both lame and pathetic but hey. Think I may celebrate further by watching Misfits from the beginning on DVD.

      Anyway I’ll start reading his blog tomorrow or Monday. Right now I amm planning nothing more intellectual than playing Minecraft. Got me an underwater castle to build. 😉

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