So on Wednesday night I pushed ‘send’ on a rather significant email. It contained a rather hefty attachment – a 75,000 word document containing a story which might – depending on what the recipient thinks of it – one day turn into an actual book. The email was sent to an editor at Random House, who I pitched my idea to at the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference in August. She liked my idea and asked to see the full manuscript. So over the past couple of months I have been tidying and polishing the manuscript, which I finished my first draft of back in January.
It is a very satisfying feeling, I can tell you that. Sure, the editor may hate it – I may have to try heaps more publishers and they may all say the same thing – but they can’t take away the fact that I HAVE WRITTEN A BOOK! I am going to bask in the glory of that achievement for just a wee while, if you will allow me 😉
I have been addicted to reading and stories since I was a wee tyke. In fact, my proudest achievement to date is winning the ‘Book Worm Award’ in J2. I have a feeling the teacher may have invented the award – a certificate in the shape of a worm – just for me, which made it even cooler. I always had my nose in a book – either reading someone else’s story or writing one of my own. My favourite way to get back at catty friends – as I got older – was to extract my vengeance in fiction. Nothing horrible – just some slight inconvenience like being pushed off a boat or having a bunch of pimples appear on the day of a school social. But it felt like decent retaliation all the same.
As an adult I kept up my book reading, but also became engrossed in story conveyed via film, television and music (yes, I am one of those people who listens to song lyrics carefully…and no Eminem, I don’t like you much as a result ;-)). I have come to admire those who can craft compelling plots, carve interesting and likeable characters, and pluck brilliant and lyrical dialogue out of thin air. I have been inspired by the likes of Aaron Sorkin, Tina Fey, Nicholas Evans, Anita Shreve, Laini Taylor and Natalie Merchant. They all made me go ‘wow, that is impressive’ and at the same time ‘well, I wonder if I can do that?’
I was on holiday last year in Italy (the sun shone all week #firstworldproblems ;-)) and had time to sit back and ponder what I really wanted to do with my life. I knew I wasn’t using my creative side in my job – and was afraid that if it didn’t use it would atrophy. I also knew that being involved in creative things was what made me really happy. At the same time though the realist side of my brain reminded me that I really wanted to own a home and I needed to pay my bills. So throwing my job in and becoming an intern on a film crew probably wasn’t going to be practical.
Luckily my sister in law came up with a brilliant suggestion – don’t give up your job, just give up a little of it. So I negotiated with my very flexible and enthusiastic boss and agreed to go down to a four day work week – to have Fridays to write. And for six months that is what I did. Spent Fridays at the desk in my father’s house looking out on my mother’s favourite magnolia tree and coming up with a fantastical story about match-making angels. And that is the story that was just sent to Random House.
Of course I didn’t do it on my own – writing is a mostly solitary process but not the whole way through. I had the support of many friends and family members along the way. One friend was a political consultant (while on maternity leave from the Beehive), another proofread every page and spotted things like ‘deserts’ when I meant ‘desserts’ (again while on maternity leave) and two lovely aunts did a full edit of my first three chapters – applying their wealth of library experience to my wee book. And I even forced a male friend to read it so that I could ensure my male characters were real enough. And many others read it and fed back and supported and encouraged.
So, I guess what I want to say is THANKS. And also – to anyone thinking ‘I wish I could do that’ – you really can. It isn’t so hard once you start. You just need a good idea, some time, a bit of dedication and good friends. The recipe to a happy life – and a finished book 🙂