‘Non-academic, forty-something looking for a career change. Limited experience of anything outside of the caring profession but in possession of a vivid imagination. Obsessed with escapism, an easily distracted daydreamer with an irritating witching hour of 4.30 am, when the mind becomes a pressure cooker of random ideas.‘
When I put it like that, I hardly sound like a great catch on the job market. This is how my CV reads in my head, just a short paragraph summarising the resume of a person with a one-style-fits-all work history and an almost apologetic approach to interviews. I thought of myself as a one-trick pony of average intelligence, how could I possibly have anything interesting to say in a book?
I love people; they fascinate me. Despite my self-deprecation in interviews, I have been fortunate enough to have had many great roles, the youngest person I’ve looked after was only days old, the eldest 104 years young.They have prepared me completely to make the transition from nurturing those on the outside of my head, to those on the inside.That was my starting point, along with the kind of relationship history (some of them, not all) that would make spinsterhood and forty cats seem appealing. It turned out I had a lot to say. It was cathartic too and way cheaper than therapy. Through my characters, I could come out with all those funny one-liners and scathing replies that I’d cursed myself for missing. A nasty ex does you a disservice? Write their alter ego into a book and bump them off: completely legal revenge that only you will ever need know about.
I had all the symptoms of a frustrated creative with no outlet. I had no idea how to channel all my energy and ideas, outside of thinking up fun activities that I thought the people I cared for would enjoy. I had no experience of writing and the literary world, with a fairly average understanding of grammar. I know it’s grammar and not grammer. I know the difference between their, they’re and there. I haven’t a clue when a full stop should go inside or outside of a bracket (I was surprised to find that this can vary) and I’m certainly guilty of misusing the comma and semi-colon. What I’m saying is that you don’t have to be a genius, or have any experience at all, to follow your dream to be a writer. That’s what editors are for, I’m merely an imagination, they’re the truly smart ones. You may not even know what your first book is about yet. I fell into mine completely by accident. I used to relay my myriad of relationship disasters to friends and quite often their replies were, ‘you should write a book about your love life.’ After yet another friend said this and challenged me to try it, I sat down at the computer and wrote the first chapter of Crappily Ever After.
I have a love/hate relationship with writing. I can’t not write and that bugs me. I people watch constantly and the notes section of my phone is crammed full of one-liners, ready to be slotted in to a chapter at some point in the future. If you’re trying to hide from this kind of creativity, you’re fighting a losing battle. It will hunt you down. I’ve always had a busy head, I thought it was just how I was. What I didn’t realise was that when my mind wouldn’t give me peace, it was because there were stories it needed to tell.
I finished Crappily and then came the fear. I couldn’t release this nonsense. People would say, ‘who does she think she is, calling herself a writer?’ The self-doubt was crippling, I was embarrassed by my attempts at writing a novel. It felt like I was baring my soul to the world and that was a scary thought. Despite the positive feedback of a handful of trusted friends, (I’ll give you this on disc, if it’s horrific then we never speak of it again) Crappily languished on my laptop for several years before it was released. It wasn’t until I moved back from London to my home town that I decided to put it out there. I paced nervously around my Mum’s kitchen as a techie friend worked his magic. A lot of wine was consumed as my book went live on Amazon. I remember logging into the reports through my hangover and seeing that I’d had fourteen sales! All from kind friends supporting my efforts. I never dreamt at that moment that I’d ever sell any more than that, let alone get to the position of #2 in the Kindle bestseller chart.
Even as I watched my first novel climb the ranks, still I wasn’t convinced that I was an author. I certainly couldn’t write another book. I was a complete fraud, I’d used the foundations of my own experiences in my one and only manuscript. But the witching hour struck again. I was lying in bed thinking about an article I’d read the previous night, about IVF. That sounds like a woman’s name, I thought. What if her name was Ivy Eff (short for Efferson) and she’d decided after being jilted that she was no longer trusting any man to give her the child she craved. For the first four chapters I despised Ivy, she was weak and pathetic. If I didn’t like her and she was my creation, there was no chance that a reader would. I shelved my four thousand words and focused on my day job. I wasn’t good at sales but it seemed a more realistic option that I’d learn to be, than ever make it as a “proper” writer. Then I had a brain fart. I could introduce a character to give Ivy the balls that she needed. Ginny, the over-protective best friend was born and I loved my story once more.
My third book, Falling from Grace, haunted me. I was four chapters into another manuscript but Grace just wouldn’t go away. Gone was the creative flow, this was a sea change. I got to work and it was bitch to write; a complicated plot with a huge twist in the middle. I think I must have read that book ten times in an attempt to spot any spoilers of what was to come. Saying that, my third novel is now my favourite. Maybe because it made me work like a dog to be able to write, ‘The End,’ but more likely, it’s that I finally felt like I could call myself an author.
It may take you some time to find your comfort zone in writing but it’s also important not to pigeonhole yourself. I dabbled in writing for children and that was immense fun. As usual, I awoke before the birds and was surprised to find there were those familiar early morning ideas, but this time for little people. I wrote almost the entire book between 4.30 and 6.15 am. It all started with one thought: what if there were three DJ pigs and I named them The Pork Scratchings? I kissed goodbye to any further sleep after that. I introduced a rapper, named Little Red, who was riding in da hood (on a scooter of course, she’s still a kid, innit).Then I created BB wolf, I imagined him to be like BB King, but the BB in this case standing for Big Bad, and he had a sax instead of a guitar. By the time the sun peeked through the curtains, I had a full compliment of alternative nursery rhyme and fairytale characters: reggae loving Goldie Dreadlocks, country fan, Puss, whose boots were made for walking. The fiesty Indierella and the endearingly camp Goez Weasel (who’s clearly into pop because isn’t that what weasels do?) I had an entire story, and although I have no intentions of writing any more for children, I do love that book. A fantastically talented actor friend, and his mate from the BBC, turned Rock upon a Time into a cartoon for YouTube, in their own free time.You can see their brilliant creation below.
Anyway, thank you for reading my first attempt at blogging. If you are interested in reading any more of my warblings, or having a bash at writing yourself, I’ll be putting together some tips I’ve learned as I’ve freewheeled my way through the world of being an indie author. I’ll be covering topics from working on your manuscript and launching your first novel, right through to marketing and hopefully nabbing that bestseller position.
Trust me, if I can do it, so can you!