Writers are often asked where they get their ideas from. The simple answer is that stories come from within. All we’ve ever seen, overheard, experienced; every fear and dream: this is what creates characters and worlds.
There is a curious alchemy that takes place – characters take on a life of their own, they say and do unexpected things, but nevertheless, they have come from within… So, when writing this stuff, it’s personal.
As a writer, you have to develop a thick skin. Because writing is also a business. It’s a profession. While there’s emotion and story, there are also markets and sales.
For starters, you have to be able to show your work to others. And you have to allow for the fact that they might not like it. They might say, ‘this bit doesn’t work,’ or ‘this falls into cliche.’
When they say that, particularly if we’re talking about agents or editors, you have to listen.
That line they’re pointing to? It’s probably your favourite line. It’s the bit where you think you sound like a real writer.
Well, listen: it has to go. Any place where your writing sounds like writing, it has to go. Because it’s about the story, not the writing.
The wondrous thing about writing is that everything informs your work. Every experience – whether it’s huge and glorious, infuriating, or as mundane as the laundry – all these things can go into your writing because they’re teaching you how to live. Living life makes you a better writer.
(Let’s not forget, writing also makes you a better writer! Writers write. It’s the golden rule, the secret. If you ever want to get anywhere in publishing stop reading the blogs about where to get ideas or how to submit the perfect cover letter. Write the story. Write, write, write. Leave it in a drawer. Take it out again and then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Then, and only then, go back to those blogs and make sure you know how to submit your work.)
Recently, my publishers, who were bought out last year by Quarto, closed their YA list. This means the contract for my second book has been revoked. Other authors have been affected, too, and Keren David and Chris Westwood write about it here and here. It is crushingly sad for all of us as I think we all felt part of something new and special.
But I pick myself up and dust myself off, because this is the nature of publishing. It’s hard. It’s competitive. It’s business.
It’s a scary place to be, publisher-less again at a point when I’d started researching my third book, while imagining what my second book’s cover design would look like.
But there’s no time to sit and wonder because I have a life to live; and if my agent does find a new publisher then one of their first questions will be whether they can see what else I’m working on, so I’d best get to it! Writers write. It’s the golden rule.