Monday, 5 September 2016

Like a Virgin: Published for the Very First Time


As a debut novelist with a first book out, who am I to give advice to anyone on writing? I chewed over this long and hard and have decided all I can speak from is my own experience in the hope it has some use for others in a similar position.  
So I asked myself this: What is the best piece of advice for someone in the same boat as you?
I hope this resonates on some level…

Stay grounded

In the heady bubble of virginal publication, nothing could be easier than to get caught up in an inflated version of yourself than at this time. From the moment - that box of author-free copies arrives and you have read over and over again the blurb on the back - to seeing your author profile staring back at you from Amazon; it’s a whirlwind romance. And it’s all about you of course.
So, before any romantic notions have you floating about on some puffed up cloud, hold-fire and aim to remain centred in who you are.

 Who the hell are you?

It has to be said that never before have I had to write more about myself since moving through the publishing process. From author profiles and short and long biographies, to pitching and press-releasing – they all cry out in rapid succession… who the hell are you and what is it you do?
Defining the self in words is not a bad thing, clarification is very much part of being a professional, and if one is published then it all becomes kind of important. I think there is a fine line between the importance of the work and the workman behind it. And maybe as writers it would serve us well to remember the ego is always ready to show itself and temper our work accordingly. Nothing is more attractive than somebody just being themselves!
     So it’s official at last. You are now a proper writer. The curtains go up and there you are, in the spotlight… Now what?
After the initial glare, you will calm down and if you don’t - then you need to learn how to, because now is where the work begins; my remedy for this is deep breaths and a constant supply of chocolate. You thought the hard bit was over - you finished your book, got the publishing contract and have spent the last few months in a semi-celebratory state with family and various friends singing your praises in some way or another. It’s all been rather wonderful and it’s only going to get better…isn’t it?
     Since we seem to be in the realms of definition, let’s explore that one. What is better? Better is not easier. It could however, mean you’d be better off with a good pair of dark glasses.
Get some.
The author spotlight can be blinding at first. And like any bright light, it takes a certain amount of adjusting to. But you will.

Don’t Panic!

So you are now standing on the stage, well done. You have earned the right to be there, brilliant. Now is the time to convince your audience that you are staying, that you can consistently show up and perform as an artist. And if we are writers, then we begin that next book don’t we?
And here is where the panic sets in if we let it. There is always a choice. You can decide to panic when you realise that this flurry of activity - the marketing and promoting stage - has arrived or you can decide not to. It’s not an easy one, I’ll agree. Suddenly, the whirlwind romance becomes an emotional tornado of volcanic proportions when you realise your to-do list is growing bigger. Every day.

More deep breaths and double the chocolate.

     Just when you thought you’d have more reasons to write – because you have – doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have more time – because you won’t. Or so it seems. More and more time is taken up with the marketing and although you may enjoy this – and if you don’t you’d better learn how to – it does highlight the fact that there is less time to actually get on with the real writing. That is, the next book sort of real writing. Now this can really push the panic levels up and you may need a paper bag in order to find any breath now. But don’t worry, it’ll soon come back.
What doesn’t kill you will make you a much stronger writer.


You will now have reached a crisis point in the deciding to panic or not phase, as not only will your ‘writing time’ appear to have diminished to zilch but you may begin to wonder how on earth you are going to fit ‘everything else’ in. This is different for everyone, but if like me, you have a family and a house to keep plus other work - then the whirlwind romance turned tornedo can escalate into a Tsunami and no-one would blame you for deciding to panic at all. It’s only natural.

     At this stage, it’s sink or swim. We have moved beyond hyperventilation and closer to the edge of god knows where, but something has to change or there is a real risk of losing one’s marbles if it hasn’t happened already (I know what you’re thinking).
This is when you say to yourself, ‘So, I wanted to be a writer didn’t I? Let’s get on with it then’. Trust becomes all important. And you find a way.
You find a way because there is every reason to keep going and not one reason good enough to stop. You find a way because you want to write more than ever. And you find a way because you realise the want has become something more… You need to write.

A Different Perspective
Whether you are writing a press-release, an article, a social media post, an introductory email or an event flyer… you are writing. And each time you write it’s great practise because you are polishing and honing your skills as a writer, whatever form it takes. And as your work load increases and you need more time, you will make more time. You will prioritize, arrange and sort out. You will do the work required.

     Like I said, this is my first time published. I had my first book signing recently at my village shop and I’m glad I did. Home ground is a good place to start as those first time nerves settle easier with familiar faces around, including the husband. From asking the shop manager, contacting the local paper, plugging online and off, to putting up posters and flyers, creating bookmarks and buying plastic cups… I enjoyed it all. And with many more events lined up, I am looking forward to more of the same, especially where the combination of the book with my band, Morrigans Path are on the agenda. Nothing delights me more.
      A mad and magical time it is and I am writing more than ever which is great, but… trying to strike a balance between doing the work and selling it is the biggest challenge I am finding so far!

Which leaves one more thing to keep us grounded at this potentially exciting time in a writer’s life:


Whatever you do, hang on to it. Laugh at yourself. I appreciate it’s not always easy, especially if you happen to be female and of a certain age, like me (the only requirements you will ever need). Sure, life can be hard for a writer but therein lies the gold dust, right there in the midst of every rotten circumstance and difficult situation. Right there in the dirt.
Recognise it. Turn it around and create with it. Turn hardship into humour if not in your writing (my novel was the perfect remedy for all kinds of murderous tendencies in the midst of menopausal madness) then in your attitude to yourself. You deserve it and who wants to be serious all the time anyway? Again, it’s about balance and what keeps us stable and rooted in who we are. However rose coloured our author glasses may be or lofty our ideals, something will eventually bring us back to earth with a bump if we are not grounded in ourselves.
And if like me, you find yourself intoxicated by the sweet aroma of first-time publication – do something to clear your head and stay humble - go and do the washing up or clean the loo.
Nothing like a tickle with a bog brush to bring one back down to earth.
It works every time.
Power to your elbow and happy writing.






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