When I first started on the long and rocky road to publication, my ambition was to find a publisher.
Just how wrong can you be! My ambition SHOULD have been to work with an editor.
This was something I never fully understood until I was given the chance by the wonderful Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press http://www.honno.co.uk/. And yes, of course I would have loved Honno to have taken my tome and declare it perfect and the best thing since ‘War and Peace’ – or possibly even ‘Pamela’. And I’ve known from the start that this would never guarantee that Honno – or anyone else for that matter – would publish the finished article. But, whatever the final outcome, I would not have missed the experience for the world. It has changed my writing – and me, too, strangely enough – forever.
The past months have passed in whirl of learning and discovery, and some of the hardest work I have ever done in my life. It’s only now, when I’ve done all I can and returned to the writer’s constant companion, Waiting, Waiting, Waiting, that I’m beginning to absorb everything that I have learnt.
When I first started, my only regret was that I had not done this before. But now, thinking about it, I’m actually glad that I got so much writing experience – including one novel already published – under my belt. Writing really is just like any other career: the best way is to work your way steadily up from the bottom, not try and rush to the top all at once. And keep that day job going. (Although I can still dream …)
And so I am thankful that I have built up experience through working to the different briefs for stories for magazines. I have an alter ego, you see, who goes under the name of ‘Heather Pardoe’, and writes stories for ‘The People’s Friend’ and ‘My Weekly’. The six novelettes I wrote as Heather Pardoe for the ‘My Weekly Story Collection’ (now Pocket Novels) were also the best experience for starting to make that leap to a full-blown novel.
The short stories and the novelettes taught me not to be precious about my writing, but to write for a specific market. And that writing for a market doesn’t mean you have to sell your soul. You can still be you. In fact, I found that working to such a tight structure gave me a strange kind of freedom. I forgot to be self conscious, and my up-itself literary head went out of the window. Hopefully never to be heard of again.
Stage One of that illusive process, ‘finding your voice’.
From the magazines, I learnt that I had a flair for everyday dilemmas and family life. Wot, me? The ultimate independent? Family life? But yep, there it is. And so that side of my unique voice was – most unexpectedly – born. From the novelettes, I learnt to get that rip-roaring tale moving at a page-turning pace, with strong heroines that never once fainted, despite some serious crinolines to hand at times.
The trick, I gradually realised, would be to bring the two together. That was when my voice would truly be born.
Sounds simple, eh?
Ah, but there lies a longer and even rockier path ……
(To be continued…..)