When I started writing novels, back in the early ‘nineties, I had no obvious path to publication beyond raw ambition. I had no contacts in the industry, there was no NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and the only creative writing MA in the country was the University of East Anglia’s very exclusive offering (no genre novelists need apply…) So, without any of those avenues of help and advice, I just did what I still do when I write novels – I made it up as I went along.
Now, making it up as you go along a perfectly respectable way to write a book but it’s a disastrous way to carve out a career.
Not knowing where to go for advice meant that:
• I didn’t know how to get an agent. Or what to expect from that agent.
• I wasn’t aware that there were different kinds of publishers and that I might expect very different things from them.
• I had no idea about contracts or how to advocate for myself and my writing.
• I thought it was enough to write a good book and put it out there. (Don’t get me started on all the ways that was wrong…)
Things are very different in 2022 but there are still obstacles in the path of the would-be published novelist:
• What if you’re not the NaNoWriMo type? Ripping out a novel in a month isn’t for everybody. (It’s certainly not for me.)
• What if you can’t afford the time or the money to do an MA? Courses demand a decent wedge of both.
• What if, for whatever reason, you’re not the group-joining type?
• What if lack the confidence to know whether your idea, or your finished book, has any potential?
What do you do then?
Over the last few years, I’ve worked with a few writers at the very beginning of their novel-writing journey who have been trying to find a way through the novel-writing maze. Here are some of the approaches I’ve received:
• ‘I’m not sure whether I’ve written a book or just a lot of words, can you read my typescript and advise me?’
• ‘I know what I’m trying to do with this book, but I can’t make it happen – what am I doing wrong?’
• ‘I’ve started but I can’t work out how to get from where I’ve got to where I want to be.’
• ‘I want to write a novel and I’ve got an idea, but don’t know how to start.’
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what I would have liked when I was starting out and, combining my own needs with the sort of questions above, I’ve come up with a proposial for a bespoke service for novelists at the very beginning of the process.
In my next post, I’ll be sharing that with you.
So, if you’re an aspiring novelist, have a finished manuscript, or know somebody who needs help to make decisions on their novel-writing journey, pop back here on Monday the 20th of June and check out what I’m going to be offering.