The ‘about time I wrote something’ post

The right conditions + time and effort = something amazing.

Well, who’d’ve thunk it? JK Rowling swallowed some of Hermione’s Polyjuice Potion and then emerged from the Hogwarts loos as crime writer Robert Gilbraith. 

I’m sure there’ll be many writers, struggling to get a foot in the literary door, who will cry ‘Foul!’ but all credit to her. She could have submitted the book under her own name and would have been assured of a hearty welcome. Instead, she chose to let her work stand or fall on its own merits and that’s a brave thing to do when you don’t have to.

The story of the story, if you get my meaning, also confirms what writers have long accepted as gospel:
– If the opportunity arises, good writing wins through. 
– An agent can make a world of difference. 
– Good reviews do not necessarily translate into plentiful sales.
– Not everything is every editor’s cup of tea. 
– It’s been reported that Orion Books turned The Cuckoo’s Calling down because, although it was ‘perfectly good’ it didn’t stand out. Depending upon your frame of mind, you could either feel buoyed up or devastated by that!

A couple of my friends have recently been signed to agents and so their journey has moved from ‘get an agent’ to ‘get a deal’. From what they’ve said, the next stage is very similar to the first; writing, rewriting, submitting (albeit the agent does that), waiting and then jumping every time the phone rings or the inbox pings. 

Unless you’re a celebrity and something is ghostwritten for you, or you are the conscious reincarnation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (feel free to replace with the author of your choice), there are no shortcuts. Because, without every single, faltering and maddening step, there is no development as writers. Put aside, for a moment, all the internet hype about analytics, community, coverage and kudos levels. If you can’t write – or worse, you won’t write – then you will struggle to become a writer.

Becoming is not a word that’s popular these days. it doesn’t fit the mould of ‘be a successful gymnast in 90 days using our proven technique’. Even Lord Alan Sugar, in the recent final of The Apprentice, commented that business start-ups need to realise that you start at the bottom and work your way up. It’s not just the road less travelled, it’s the road frequently avoided. 

In part, I think, it’s why creatives become (yes, I know it’s that word) so disillusioned. In a similar to staying online because we’re afraid of missing out, we can avoid committing to writing because we want to sidestep the pain of the first draft and the purgatory of the subsequent edits. When we do that, we kill inspiration stone dead. The muse packs his or her bags (I have one of each, currently, and they don’t get on) and heads off to someone more appreciative. And then those lovely stories we know we are capable of telling fall silent even in our own heads. Or else they torture us with whispers when we’re stuck in traffic or reading someone else’s work.

All I’m saying is what everyone who has ever written a book has said: writers write. It’s as simple as that. Everything else is a whole other ball of beeswax. There, that ought to do it. Now I can get back to my novel.


  1. Chloe says:

    I like that phrase – "The road frequently avoided".

    I've had a fair few rejections along the lines of "this is well-written and we like it but it doesn't stand out enough for us". I shall take heart! Thanks Derek.

  2. Yes, I was a fan of The Road Less Travelled! Chloe, it only takes one 'yes' to have made it all worthwhile and that's just a matter of time and circumstance now.

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