Often I imagine what kind of things I’ll do if I scale the Everest that is a career in writing today. Apart from taking baths in champagne, shooting pheasants (and possibly peasants) on my country estate, etc. One thing I would definitely do would be look back on the progress I’ve made. Less than a year ago, in the first days of January, I took my first big step as a writer – I let someone else read my work. Now that dozens of people have seen it, from closest family to virtual strangers, this doesn’t seem scary any more, but at the time it was a huge hurdle. So that was step one.
Next, I’ve learned a lot about the business of publishing, what agents do and why I need one, how to submit manuscripts, and, I think, have a fairly good picture of what kind of book I need to be writing to get published. I’ve read dozens of books on writing, obsessively ringing bits or tossing them across the room in disgust. I’ve been to talks and seminars, I’ve buttonholed agents for their advice (they are mostly very kind), I’ve even started submitting. Again, this gets much less terrifying when you realise that no, the phone isn’t going to ring with a huge offer within 24 hours of submission. Six months and an offer of 10p plus a chocolate orange is probably more realistic.
Which brings me on to another thing I’ve learned – writing is by no means an alternative career choice. The chances of making money are slim, and certainly not likely to happen overnight. You’d have more luck catching a leprechaun, frankly. So I’ve learned to scale back my expectations and ask myself sternly do I still want to do this if I never make enough money to live off. There’s a long way to go I’m sure –maybe I’m at base camp and soon to be struggling for oxygen – but I’ve learned a lot too. I’ve networked. Perhaps this is the biggest sign of how I’ve grown – a year ago the concept of networking was enough to have me sneaking along the wall to the peanuts, trying to blend in with the paint. What I didn’t realise was how easy it is to ‘network’ when you care deeply about the subject and could talk about it all night if you weren’t afraid the nice agent would soon be pressing a hidden panic button while smiling nervously in a ‘keeping the serial killer talking while we tap their phone’ kind of way.
This week’s progress: one agent met, more tips learned, talk attended, very exciting news about which my pen must be still until next week, got my questions answered for research. Excellent.