Here’s another blog I wrote for the blog tour about becoming an author, reproduced in full with the kind permission of the very lovely Jo from Life Of Crime. Do visit Jo’s site.
What I didn’t know about becoming an author
OK. So this is how I saw it at the time. Please don’t snigger at the simplistic way in which I viewed things back then because I can guarantee that most of those authors you follow religiously and who now appear like demi-gods on the literary stage will have been no different when they first started. At least, I hope it’s not just me.
So you finally get your agent and, in due course, your first deal with a publisher – in my case, a two-book deal. All downhill from here on in, isn’t it? The publishers welcome you with open arms, promise to take care of everything from now on. You just go away and get on with writing the next one and don’t worry about a thing. Leave it all to us.
In your dreams.
I am at present 57,000 words into book 3, which probably equates to two-thirds of the way through. I have another 6 weeks to finish the first draft which, a few years ago, would have been a stroll in the park. Not even 1000 words a day. Piece of cake. But . . . what they didn’t tell me is that finding time to write the next book is not the simple matter of choice that it was before I got a publishing deal. New writing time has to fight its corner against serious incursions from a number of other areas which are also very important and fall within the author’s remit. In case you’re not aware of these competing demands, let me list some of them for you – and please be aware that this is far from a comprehensive list.
What I learned
• Social media. When I had my first meeting with Bonnier Zaffre my editor asked me what I was like with social media and I gave him my best smug expression and announced in true authorly fashion oh, I don’t do that sort of thing. His response was you do now. I spend something in the region of two hours a day, creating my own tweets and posts, re-tweeting others, sending direct messages, deciding which people to follow, thanking others for kind comments or RTs and, inevitably, watching that panda clutching the zookeeper’s leg.
• Website. Didn’t have one. Do now. And it needs to change every so often or no one will come and look at it. And it doesn’t change itself.
• Blogs. I’d heard of them but wasn’t sure what purpose they served. Now I’ve discovered a whole world out there of bloggers who are prepared to include you and your book and anything you want to say about it for no better reason than that they love what they do. But they have to be fed.
• Reviewers. In my naïve way, I assumed you write your book and wait to see what the reviewers in the national press think of it. The answer is they don’t – or at least they haven’t so far. You’re very fortunate if they even read it. But there’s a community of reviewers out there who not only read as many as 250 books a year. I thought I was doing well with 70 to 80! These people write wonderful reviews which play a significant role in getting your name and your book out there. They need to be reminded how much they’re appreciated.
• Personal appearances. Not complaining for one moment. I love these and having the chance to talk about your book with people who’ve been good enough to buy it and invite you along is one of the real joys of being an author. Just saying . . . if you go to Liverpool to meet your readers, it’s probably a couple of days out of your writing time.
• Editing. You don’t just write your book once. You do it about half-a-dozen times with rewrites that can take weeks. Then you read it again for line edits and final edits and by the time everyone agrees it’s as good as it’s going to be, you’re starting to have doubts about whether it’s as good as you once thought.
• Life. Whether it’s work or bringing up young children or working at your own relationship, life has a way of tapping you on the shoulder and reminding you that it’s there, waiting not always very patiently for you to get your priorities sorted out.
As I said, it’s not a comprehensive list. I haven’t for instance mentioned what it’s like to sit down and try to be creative and sparkling after you’ve just watched Wolves get beaten at home by Birmingham, but it should give you an idea of the many different directions from which distractions descend upon any author trying to meet a deadline.
Just as well we love what we do.