Things I Wish I’d Known

One of the reasons we wanted to host a Book Bound writing retreat is because we’ve all been there, as writers. We know firsthand that the author journey is an exhilarating roller coaster ride, a mountain to be climbed, a monster of a … enough with the tortured analogies! If I could write a letter to my younger self, on the eve of first publication, what advice would I share?

Publication is only the first step

I wrote my first novel in silence, sat at a desk beneath the stairs, in the hallway of my flat, on an ancient computer given to me by my parents. All I dared dream of was publication. Little did I know, that holding my own book in my hands would only see me in the foothills of the author journey. There was so much more to learn and do. How to engage with publishers, with readers, with my own ideas factory in the writing of a second novel… Some of these I’d succeed at, some would see me fail. Writer, be ready for both.

‘How’s the novel going?’

The hopeful expectation of friends is one of the most crippling pressures an author faces! Well-meaning individuals may only have one benchmark of success and her name is probably JK Rowling. How does your novel compare to Harry Potter? You’d better prepare a good answer! Keep smiling – people are only trying to be kind. And find trusted individuals you can confide the truth in.

Publishers are really busy

When a publisher, editor, or editorial assistant tells you that they’re really, really busy – like, really busy – you’d better believe them. More books are being written than ever before, submissions take a mere click of the mouse. Yet largely (not exclusively) all those books are being channelled through the same small coterie of publishing houses. That’s a lot of busy people filtering manuscripts. One of the best skills an author can learn is patience.

Your novel is not yours alone – nor should it be

Writing is a collaborative process. Editorial input is crucial, first cover design exciting, marketing mysterious, and retail a big gamble. The success or failure of your novel is not all down to you. Be thankful! Signing a book contract means getting experts on your side. Thank your lucky stars for experts and engage with them.

You are entering the best adventure of your life

If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, would I have put the pen down and switched the computer off? Gone to the pub instead of sitting alone at a desk? Never! I have learned craft, I have learnt about myself. I have made lifelong friends and I have enjoyed a life explored. Good writers understand that they never stop learning.

Are you going to take the first step towards learning to be a writer? Or are you well into the journey? Any sage advice to share?


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