Six years ago, I completed my first novel. Like most unpublished writers, I desperately wanted a publisher. I wanted my work to be read. I bought The Writer's Handbook, sent off submissions, started a blog, and continued to write. Six years later, my first three novels were accepted for publication by Snowbooks. My debut, The Letters, was published earlier this year. Was it all I'd hoped for? Was being published my Holy Grail?
My journey towards publication, like most writers, has been full of trials and adventures. I did find an agent shortly after finishing my first novel, but she couldn't find a publisher willing to take the book on. I had countless near misses and set backs. In retrospect, I am very grateful that it took me six years to find a publisher. I have learnt so many useful lessons along the way, and I know that these lessons will be of benefit in the years ahead.
What have I learnt? I have discovered a lot about marketing - the things that I enjoy (blogging, sending out newsletters, social networking) and the things that seem to work (being authentic, doing the same marketing activities over and over for a very long time). I published a couple of non-fiction books myself, and this taught me about putting books together, and gave me a taste of having 'an audience'.
I learnt (or learnt again) that I'm a control freak, and that it is difficult for me to hand things over, but that it's really helpful when I'm able to let go. I learn that I get easily addicted to praise, and the more praise my books get, the more I want. I learnt that this praise is never enough, and instead I need to remember that I am already enough, before I ever wrote a word.
I also learnt that writing is centrally important to me. I will continue to write whether or not my books continue to be published. Writing helps me to make sense of myself and of everything else, and to engage with the world. I love rolling words around in my mouth. It makes me happy when other people enjoy my descriptions, or become fond of my characters, or learn something about themselves when they read my stories. I got better at recovering from rejection. I got better at persevering. I could go on.
Being published has been a wonderful experience. I've thoroughly enjoyed working with Snowbooks, and there is nothing like holding your book in your hands for the very first time. Seeing it on the shelves in a bookshop is pretty cool too!
But no, being published hasn't been my Holy Grail. I'm not quite ready to retire on my royalties. Nobody has recognised me on the street yet, and I'm still waiting for Richard and Judy to call. I still have days when I think I'm a pretty decent writer, and days when I fear that I'm truly awful.
Having the goal of 'being published' was a helpful one, but rather than seeing it as the end, I now see it as just another stepping stone in my career as a writer. The joyful work of writing continues, and ordinary life goes on. I'll continue to learn, and carry on celebrating the milestones and the good stuff - being nominated for my first prize, or getting positive feedback from readers. I have always planned on being in this business for the long run. I am a writer. What else would I do with my days?
Causes Fiona Robyn Supports