You might have noticed that I haven’t blogged for a very long time.
Last year was a fight for my writing life! In fact, the last two years have been a real writing struggle, as you can see from previous posts, and I got to the point where I didn’t want to talk about it anymore.
The more I learnt about the publishing industry, the more demoralised and disillusioned I became.
The first hurdle for any writer is getting an agent, and then a publisher. I know great writers who have struggled for years to get an agent (by comparison I really haven’t tried very hard). I also know great writers who have an agent but even then have been struggling for years, writing a number of different stories to try and get a book deal. That can, unsurprisingly, lead to huge disappointment. “Anonymous” published a short piece in the Guardian last year about this. She received a lot of criticism and advice to toughen up and keep going, but I salute her for her openness and honesty. Most writers have felt the same way, even if they haven’t quit as a consequence. I thought very seriously about quitting myself.
“If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, you’re a writer.” R.A. Salvatore
Even if you do realise your dream and get a book published, it can still all turn sour – check out this article (excuse the language!). Publishing is a tough industry and as publishers struggle to keep afloat they have to make difficult decisions. Sometimes things just don’t work out.
I’ve known for a long time that breaking through the “debut author” door is a huge challenge, closely followed by the notoriously difficult second book syndrome (made even more difficult if the first book has been successful!). BUT I thought that once you’d done that and had a measure of success then you’d be free to write what you want. Not so. This post from Non Pratt (who’s had 5 books published) makes it clear that publishers often want you to stick within your “brand” – presumably because it’s easier to market. Basically that means that if you’ve had contemporary middle-grade published then you might not be “allowed” to write sci-fi/fantasy Young Adult.
I realised that writing a great book isn’t enough to get published anymore. And even if I got published, it probably wasn’t going to turn out how I imagined. I had to regroup and rediscover my reason for writing again, as well as my love for it.
Time also became a challenge last year with going back to work part-time (I’m aware that full-timers manage to write, but I am a lightweight!). A few months ago I finally got into the habit of having one writing day a week, which I treat as sacrosanct and guard fiercely – it’s my favourite day of the week 🙂
Last year wasn’t a complete write-off. One highlight was getting involved in a project with UCLAN (The University of Central Lancashire) which I hope to be able to share with you soon. I also kept moving forward with both my writing projects – the Space Opera (have given up on titles for it!) and Controllers – albeit at a very slow pace.
Thankfully I’ve finally found my writing groove again! And I am LOVING it!!
I’ve put aside my Space Opera series for now. An agent (feedback I won as a raffle prize, I haven’t submitted for a year now) recently confirmed what I already pretty much knew – there’s no market in the UK for YA SFF (most of it is American). Also, even if there was, a SFF trilogy wouldn’t be something a publisher would happily take on from a debut author. As it stands, book 1 has been edited a million times; book 2 is fully first drafted; and book 3 has a few thousand words in it already. It WILL be published one day – there are lots of different ways to bring a book to market. It’s the book of my heart and I want to wait until the time is right for it.
My main work-in-progress now is Controllers. You’ll hear more about that this year! However, I’ve also just had the most amazing idea for a middle-grade story, that I really really want to jump straight into. You’ll probably hear more about that this year too 🙂
I’m also taking time to write short stories and flash fiction. They keep me fresh, giving me the opportunity to try out different ideas and points of view. Mostly they’re for competitions – which as regular blog readers will know, I HATE – but are a necessary evil (!) as I’m also working on “100 Rejections” this year (which I’ll explain in a future blog).
So… the last couple of years have been one hell of a journey, but a more realistic and experienced Mel is now back on track and buzzing with the joy of writing again! Bring it on!