Or should that be … Am I a Writer? In the literal sense a writer is one who writes. So I am a writer. Right? Or maybe not.
When asked by a new acquaintance what I do, I tell them that I work as a HR Advisor. I’ve never been asked to justify that claim, never been required to demonstrate my qualifications, never expected to boast a success or defend a failure.
But if I said that I was a writer, “What have you written,” they’d ask and I’d be expected mention my books piled high in Waterstone’s window, to reel off a list of well known magazine publications. That there have been writing achievements (a memoir in Cotswold Life, a short story in the Western Morning News, promotional literature for a chain of country house rentals, and two awards as a finalist in the Press Associations Media Awards) is simply not enough. I could tell them what they want to hear: A book; I’ve written a book. 83,000 words no less. It would be true but they wouldn’t have heard of it because it hasn’t been published, so that wouldn’t count.
Written a book? Yes, and had a few rejections, eight to be precise. Is it the era? Is 1950s/60s not currently popular? The style, the grammar, the format? Is it just a poor storyline. Apparently none of those – no negative feedback, even some with positive comments but rejected nevertheless – just not for them. So why haven’t I done more to try and get it out there then? Is it because I’ve been lazy? After all, submitting a manuscript is no straightforward task – everyone wants a novel of differing word count, a different length synopsis, a different format. Yes, I probably have been lazy about it. But there’s another reason too, and it’s here, deep down, that I know the real reason lies: Occasionally someone will ask….”what’s happening with your book?” and right now I can answer, “Well, I’ve sent it to a few agents but nothing’s come of it.” I can blame my own laziness saying that I really need to put some effort into doing something about it, that “I’ll get round to it one day.” Not much that anyone can say to that, is there? I guess where I’m coming from here is that what I don’t want to say is that nobody’s interested because that’s like saying it’s no good.
And actually I DO think it’s some good. And so did my beta readers, (someone who will be brutally honest from a reader’s point of view rather than a publisher’s. They question, critique and make note of flaws in plot and character. I’ve intentionally held back from giving it to specific friends who have asked to read it but whom I know won’t want to hurt my feelings, telling me only the things they think I want to hear. Funny how we are less ready to believe good feedback and yet dwell on every negative word. So my beta readers were carefully chosen: two ladies whom I know will be honest, each a professional writer, albeit of non-fiction but, importantly, both prolific readers of women’s fiction. Their comments in brief:
MP: A cracking story. I stayed up well into the night to finish it.
LW: It is simply brilliant. I love your style and your research is so well done. I can’t fault it. You have to keep submitting – it would make a super film too. So much of you is in it and that made me smile. A lovely story with some fab twists.
How could I not hug every one of those words to my heart. I loved that LW recognised the level of research undertaken, and her comment that there is much of me in it is reflected in my favourite writing quote shown at the start of this post. There have been other readers, though not strictly beta readers since they have each read only extracts of around 8,000 words, but how fortunate I have been to have access to their feedback which has been equally useful, equally critical and positive:
“I loved it, especially the clever research and accuracy” (Ron Callander, award winning Australian Author, scriptwriter and journalist). Importantly for me, Ron is a veteran of The Korean War – the era in which much of my book is set.
“This is powerful storytelling. Rarely has fiction moved me to tears. I can see this as a film.” (Julie MacLusky, Broadcast journalist, screenwriter and non-fiction author). Two votes for the film option then!
“It has moments of poignancy that are beautifully written [and] it’s a brilliant storyline” (Stephanie Hale, Oxford Literary Consultancy)
During the writing of the book, I was so immersed in the world of my protagonists, that I found it difficult to leave them behind, thinking about them constantly, having conversations with them using their lingo, even their accents and yet, unbelievably, since last Christmas I’ve been so deep into the writing doldrums that I haven’t even read through it once. But over this past couple of weeks, the spark has reignited, I feel fired up, enthused. Overwhelmingly, instinct tells me that this story is not yet a dead horse. So where do I go from here? Do I keep submitting to agents or publishers? Do I keep revisiting, revising, rewriting to improve it? I am such a Dorothy Parker: “I can’t write five words but that I change seven.” Or do I move on and start writing something else that I’ve mulled over for a time or should I indulge that tiny spark of an idea that keeps niggling away….developing one of the character’s stories?
I have a lot of questions bouncing around my head just now.
Sincere thanks for the kindness and encouragement shown to me by writer Jessica Redland, with whom I had never even been in contact until three weeks ago. She has been truly inspirational and has helped me rediscover my writing mojo. And now for Jessica’s own amazing news: a new publishing deal for twelve (yes, really TWELVE) books! https://jessicaredlandwriter.wordpress.com/