It took me a long time to tell people I was writing a novel.
For over three years, I beavered away at it alone. My friends, my family and my work colleagues were oblivious of what I was trying to do. The only other human who knew was my partner.
Anyone who has ever attempted the crazy task of writing a novel knows that it’s a mammoth undertaking. It’s hard. It takes determination, resilience and most of all, it takes time. It’s for these reasons that only a tiny minority of people who start writing a book ever finishes it.
There’s an old West African saying about travelling that goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.” In my opinion, writing a novel is definitely on the “go far,” side of that equation.
I was scared that I would not be able to see it through, that I would become one of those people who talks a good game, but can’t back it up with action.
Last autumn, I decided to tell people about it. I also set up an Instagram page and started to connect with other aspiring writers online. The question is: What stopped me from telling other people about my book earlier?
It came down to one thing: fear. Fear of looking stupid and fear of failure.
Before starting my novel, I didn’t know anyone who had attempted to write a book. Although I’ve been a voracious reader since I was a child, I didn’t think that actually writing a book was something that someone like me did. I jumped into writing fiction with my eyes wide shut, and as a result, I knew that there was a very good chance that I’d make a right hash of the whole thing.
However once I started writing, I realised that there are many, many people out there trying to achieve something similar to me. I find this comforting and encouraging. I found a writing club that I attend most weeks and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting all types of writers; novelists, short story writers, screenwriters, playwrights, video game writers, poets and more. The support and information we share has been invaluable.
What is more, this year I’ve made it my mission to learn more about the publishing industry. I’ve been hoovering up writing blogs and podcasts and gone along to as many face-to-face events as I can. Last month, I attended the TLC’s Writers’ Day and it was just brilliant. It doesn’t matter if someone is just putting their first words on the page or if they’ve landed a six-figure book deal, the people I’ve met through writing have been an inspiration
I was scared that I would not be able to see it through, that I would become one of those people who talks a good game, but can’t back it up with action. What if I became one of the vast majority who never finish? What if I failed?
Back in the autumn, my definition of success was to finish writing the first draft. After that, I could claim to be in the small minority who can honestly say “I’ve written a book.” Interestingly, since then, my goal has shifted. I’m now editing my novel, and now my goal is to be able to say “I’ve written a great book.” No doubt my goal will shift again in the future.
Since I began telling people about my writing, I’ve learned many things. Probably the most important is just how foolish my fears were. To a man and woman, everyone I’ve told about my writing has been unbelievably supportive. Many tell me that they can’t believe that I’d actually attempt such a foolhardy thing, but everyone has wished me good luck with it. What has been even more encouraging is that when I speak about what my story is about, lots of my friends and colleagues have told me that they want me to finish because they can’t wait to read it. To be honest with you, it’s been a little overwhelming.
I’ve learned that my fears were completely internal and had nothing to with the way the world perceived me. Also, a happy side-effect of telling people that I’m writing a novel has been that I’ve become a much faster and, I believe much better writer. I think that this is because I’ve found people to share ideas with and also people who hold me accountable.
So, my advice to anyone who is starting writing a book would be to tell others, to talk to people who are trying to achieve similar things and most importantly of all, to keep going.
With a little help from some friends, you can go very far indeed.