Not much happens in a hurry in this game. There aren’t many I-had-to-pinch-myself: one-minute-I-was-pulling-pints-in-the-Dog-and-Duck-the-next-I-had-a-three-book-deal moments. There’s an apprenticeship to be served, Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule, if you like (though fortunately for writers, many of these can be chalked up by reading IMHO). It brings a smile to my face when commentators bestow a debut author with sycophantic reverence, as if the words in their book were the first they’d ever written. Likely they have three or four terrible manuscripts clogging up a drawer at home, their craft learned painfully and without brevity. Likewise I groan when people say 'Oh, I don't read debut authors'.
And so, in a week that’s brought some brief reflection on my own writing journey, I thought I’d give you some key dates by way of example, to show success rarely comes overnight, that a week where I’ve seen the cover for my debut novel (coming here soon), signed the sale of foreign rights, and learned that the BBC want to meet to discuss some writing projects, was a long-ish time in the making.
2005 – worked in world’s dullest office, grinning inanely every day while plotting escape
2006 – enrolled on creative writing MA, wrote a short story
2007 – short story becomes a collection
2008 – decides first short story has potential to be a novel
2010 – collection is published, wins a prize or two
2011 – send completed novel to literary agency who like it and sign me
2012 – agent submits novel to publisher, sign for two-book deal
" – drove past window of world’s dullest office, unable to resist vestige of smugness
2013 – debut novel to be published
2014 – followed by #2
The reason for this, (honest), is not to bask languorously and egotistically in some small (okay, medium) literary success: it’s to (crudely) document the path, how in 2005 I’d not yielded a solitary word of fiction, but was hungrily seeking some seismic artistic endeavour. What you can’t see are those 10,000+ hours woven in between the dates, the self-doubt, the rejection letters, all that was sacrificed, the blood and sweat, the temptation to slink sheepishly back to said office.
I won’t dare be so facile to say ‘If I can do it, etc’. But, well, you know. There are no shortcuts. Get banking those hours.