Why do you write? Is a common thing writers are asked.
I write for love, not money or fame although these would be delightful of course. If someone decides to write because they want to be famous or earn a ton load of money they will likely end up poor and nobody will know who they are.
Writing involves commitment especially when you’re struggling to get your first novel published. You’re in it for the long haul. You need to love what you’re doing. Readers can sniff out a writer who doesn’t love their job at 50 paces. You’ll have an empty, unfulfilled life if whatever project you’re working on doesn’t consume you.
I finished my second novel, a crime novel set in Fife, Scotland called The Ballad of Sarah Rose in October 2015. The novel had been living and breathing inside my head for many years. I wrote the first draft when I was only 15. The novel had gone through many versions and different forms before I finally typed THE END after completing the first draft.
The idea I had when I was just a teenager that would eventually become The Ballad of Sarah Rose (book one of a trilogy) was sometimes more alive to me that the world I could smell and touch every day. I knew the characters so well they were like family. The novel is set in a fictional village called Steven’s Gate which is based on an actual fishing village called Anstruther. I spent many years in Anstruther as a child and used all of my memories in the book. I would see my characters and hear their voices when I visited the place. I felt quite sad when I typed THE END and knew I was done with Steven’s Gate and the Rose family for a while.
So why do I write then?
There’s no simple answer. I’ve made up stories since I was a kid. I’m a book lover and have been a book blogger for four years. Maybe that has something to do with it.
I love writing. I love seeing characters, places and events come to life as I type. I love it when something that started off as a vague notion in my head becomes a twenty page story or a 98,000 word novel. There’s no better rush in the world. As Stephen King once said, it’s like being paid to steal. When you get paid that is.
I didn’t go to University when I finished school. I don’t have a degree or any letters after my name. I regret this sometimes. People sometimes give someone with a degree more respect whether justified or not. Now my circumstances are such that it’s not possible for me to work part time and go to University.
You don’t need a degree to be a writer, not the creative sort anyway. Many institutions offer creative writing degrees our courses. The courses are fun and I’ve done a few over the years but they are not a pre-requisite to be a writer. You just need to write. Every day if possible.
I’m a firm believer that writing, good writing cannot be taught. It’s a skill that someone either has or doesn’t have. All the writing courses and degrees in the world can’t turn someone with no ideas or writing ability into the next Stephen King. As the saying goes, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear or something like that. Writing degrees and courses can turn a competent writer into a good one because they teach you how to discipline yourself, how to edit, how to structure your stories and poems and how to use grammar.
2015 was not the best year- writing wise – for me.
I finished my first novel, The Other Side of Me in October 2014. I sent it off to publishers and agents and awaited that life-changing email or phone call. It didn’t come. I worked on my second novel, The Ballad of Sarah Rose and waited a bit more. I finished The Ballad of Sarah Rose in October 2015 and started the same cycle.
Each rejection I got felt like another knife stabbing into my heart. The worst of it was most of the time I was given a bog standard thanks but no thanks rejection. I might have felt better if I’d been given even a slither of feedback this doesn’t workor that doesn’t work or you might want to consider doing xyz. I appreciate editors and agents are busy people but the lack of personal feedback does my head in at times.
Around November 2015 when The Ballad of Sarah Rose had been rejected a few times I’d had enough. I took a sabbatical until January 2016 and didn’t write a thing.
Prior to this when The Ballad of Sarah Rose was still doing the rounds I tried to start my third novel, another crime novel called Down, Into the Darkness. I just couldn’t get it started. The book which had been very much alive in my head when I was finishing off The Ballad of Sarah Rose had withered and died. A year of rejections for my other two novels had all but destroyed my confidence. I remember crying my eyes out each time I got a thanks but no thanks email.
I started to seriously question whether I wanted to be a writer or not and took my sabbatical to decide this. I wondered if I absolutely had to write or if I’d be better off putting it down to a dumb idea I had once. The two months I didn’t write were hard, very hard. As hard and upsetting as every rejection was, turning my writer’s head off was worse. I couldn’t wait to start writing again in January 2016.
If nothing else my sabbatical proved I write because I had to, because writing was in my heart and head.
I write because I don’t know what else to be and I need to breathe.
My writing priorities for 2016-2017 will be:
- Keep sending off The Other Side of Me and The Ballad of Sarah Rose
- Finish the stories for my sequence about the seven deadly sins, The Sinner’s Song
- Write the first draft of Down, Into The Darkness
- Write more, lots more
- Take part in NaPoWriMo in 2016 (and 2017 if I want to go through a month of torture again)
- Take part in Story A Day in 2016 (and 2017 if taking part in 2016 doesn’t kill me)