Thursday, 20 December 2012

2012 - What I have learned about publishing

I've had a fairy tale year. I got a book shortlisted for the Mslexia prize, then that book went on to be sold as part of a three book deal (announcement shortly). Now the fairy dust has settled, I have time to look back at the valuable lessons I have learned.

Everything takes a long time. It turns out that agents and editors are amazingly busy people who - gasp - have other books to work on. Writers that got there first, who are closer to publication. Debut authors who have time to spare have to learn to wait their turn, secure in the knowledge that when it is their turn, everything happens ASAP. But when it is your turn they are amazingly generous and helpful.

It is essential to put one's ego (kicking and screaming though it may be) to one side, and be edited. I may have a diploma in creative writing and now an MA, but neither told me what will get published, nor how to align my writing to the market. That's the specialised job of agents and editors who don't have any magic formulae for success either. But they know a lot more than I do about what is selling, has sold and might sell. I've have learned to like being edited, as sometimes another person's 'can we do more with this character?' is my lightbulb moment.

Writers are an incredibly generous and kind bunch. Over the last rollercoaster year I have been supported by so many. Some are working their way up the ladder, some are already published, but all have offered wise words, experience and encouragement. Thank you all, especially the kind souls who have beta read my book and offered just what I needed - critical feedback.

I love writing. I have these perfect ideas in my head, then start tapping away and somehow they become chaotic, messy stories with no focus and uneven pace. But rewriting and editing prune away the mad growth to reveal - OK, not perfection - but stories that I would enjoy reading. I hope other people do in the end. I have learned that this is the way I want to earn my living. 

You can't write if you don't read. Not just read, but in your own genre. I'm making time to read books that inspire my own writing, as part of the work of writing.

Learning about writing improves my work. I enjoyed the process of reflecting on my work to get my MA, it taught me loads and I'm still working on improving that book.

But most of all, the process of writing is how I improve. I've written two books from scratch this year and edited another one. Writing, it turns out, is easier and better the more you do it. If you want your fairy tale year, write and write, show it to people who have the confidence to tell you the truth and listen to their comments with a critical ear. I wish you all the luck that I have had.


  1. A warm and generous post, Reb. It's been great to follow your journey to here.

    Now, I'm raising a glass to your (and okay, mine and everyone else who's reading's) year ahead. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. You certainly have had an incredible year. Have a great Christmas and all the best for 2013 -)

    1. Thanks Kate - looking forward to publication days in 2013. I hope it seems more real to you, because this time last year it all felt like a pipe dream to me!