I mean really, could there be anything more indulgent than someone writing about their writing?
Those of you who know me from Twitter or my first foray into blogging http://www.mumhasdementia.com might be aware that I have recently made the move into writing fiction. Like squillions of others, I have been writing / pratting about for a long time but it was only two years ago that I tried my hand at a full novel. I thought it may be of marginal interest for those at a similar stage to know what led me to this point and how things progress from here, although I suspect this blog will only be remotely entertaining if I actually end up with a publishing deal. There are people out there who find solace in the evidence of someone trying and failing repeatedly – it may at times even be instructive to learn from the mistakes made – but if you would rather stick pins in your eyes than listen to someone blah on about their non-existent writing career then I suggest you move on swiftly. Like my dementia blog, I’m aiming for niche audience not big numbers.
I began my current WIP (work in progress – get me) a few years ago when I contemplated pursuing a side-line career in writing medical romance. I’m a doctor, I thought. I’ve been in love before and continue to be very much in love – this will be a piece of cake, I thought. I wrote a chapter and then buried it away when I started the dementia blog. There are a limited number of hours in my week for writing and at that stage the blog was providing enough of a creative outlet for me. I also realised that medical romance of the Mills and Boon variety was not necessarily the straightforward beast I had assumed – it has very specific rules and it is not something I tend to read – one thing my sister had told me repeatedly is read what you write – so I had failed at the first hurdle.
Two years ago however, I noticed on Twitter that Trapeze books had launched a competition in conjunction with eHarmony to discover the Next Great Romance Novel. I could write that I thought, with trademark humility and I returned to my chapter, spruced it up, added a bit and submitted it – genuinely thinking I had a good a chance.
Clearly, I was out of my tiny mind. Half the world want a publishing deal for their debut novel. People with Creative Writing BAs, MAs and professorships are all competing for the tiniest number of prizes and a possible glimpse of an agent. And my 3 chapters were complete shite – let’s be frank. For a start it was a masterclass in how not to do exposition – it was all telling and no showing, all the dialogue was ‘he said kindly’ / ‘she said winningly’ / ‘she wrote dreadfully.’ Now, I read, I read a great deal. I love books SO VERY MUCH. But I had no grasp of even the basics of getting my own story down on a page.
Nonetheless, I was undeterred. I had the bug. Whilst waiting for the inevitable competition win / agents banging my door down / Hollywood on the phone wanting film rights, I just ticked along with my story and I had so much bloody fun. Writing romantic fiction is an absolute blast, and I’ll admit, I massively fancied my male protagonist; every time I wrote about him I was sort of lusting after him in a literary sense. I felt like my characters were my friends, which may be a little tragic given the fact that I have a lot of very lovely non-made-up friends already. Romance is pure escapism (a comment that causes deep distress to my husband who is admittedly very romantic). Given the state of the country and background anxieties about work and family life (I’m a GP with three kids and a mother with dementia, living in a fairly divided Britain – and this was before the pandemic), immersing myself in an invented world came to feel almost essential to my well being.
Writing a story is like reading a story although you can have as much fun writing a crap story as reading a really good one. Most people I know who write describe the agonies, the torture of creative genius, the pain of the edit. Bollocks to that. It’s a treat, an indulgence, an act of pure, selfish joy. I have edited and rewritten over and over again and I still love my story. Even if nothing ever comes of it and nobody ever reads it, I have enjoyed writing it enough to make the whole enterprise worthwhile.
Caveat – It may be important to stress here that I just haven’t reached the really tough bit of writing, the exhausting fourteenth draft, the overwhelming fear of rejection, the dreaded block. There will be wise and experienced writers out there doubtless shaking their heads at my naivety. No matter – I will get my comeuppance perhaps – or perhaps not. Maybe it will always be a joy – I hope so.