I’m a writer, really I am.

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A well-established author acquaintance recently told me to say this in the morning when I look in the mirror – well, often half a day passes or more before I look in a mirror, but it was nice of him to say it as he meant it.

I have ‘been published’ – short stories and a children’s book but am seeking that real affirmation that what I do currently is as good as friends and contacts have told me – and that my work could be published and put on shelves in shops.

Hoxton got as far as submission and has been turned down after I had waited in that rather comfy little bubble of hope for a considerable time. Yesterday I moped a little but soon recovered knowing I just need to find the right person at the right point.

Here’s an extract from my other working novel, developed from a short story called The 158th Book, where the main character, Hamish (at this point in hospital after falling though a floor) asks himself the question: when is it OK to say you are a writer.

The ward is quiet this morning, just the sound of the squeaky-wheeled medicine trolley and my adjacent neighbour reading a crossword out loud. He stops, exasperated by a clue.

    “Hamish?”

    I turn, wincing a little at my shoulder’s protest.

    “Leroy?”

    “Dog crossing undefined wilderness sometimes in underwear’. First letter P.”

    I look at his old black face, grey eyebrows furrowed in friendly question and wish I could help. Crosswords always elude me.

    “. . . er. Something to do with the night sky?”

    He peruses the page again: “P . . . mm. Nope. What about, ‘oves snared within foliage’? Three words starting with S.”

    “Sheep-eating plant.”

    “ . . . . S. H. E.E.P. Yes . . . man, how’d d’you know that?”

    I’m stunned myself. “I just remember feeling horrified that there is actually a plant that reaches out and grabs large animals.”

    “Not in London?”

    “No. Peru, I think. Although, apparently brambles can do the same thing.”

    “Blackberry plants can eat sheep?”

    “Not as such. It’s the thorns . . . the sheep gets stuck as it tries to free its wool from the plants, gets more stuck and eventually dies, thus nourishing the bramble bush – for ever pretty much considering the size of the animal.”

    Leroy looks impressed. “What did you say you do?”

    “I’m a writer.”

    He nods, smiles and goes back to his crossword and I sit there thinking about that phrase. ‘I’m a writer’. Do you become a writer when someone with special powers says so – like a chief editor at a major publishing house? Or are you allowed to just say, ‘I’m a writer’ if you write?

Serious advice

 

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Myself – in case any search engines pick up on it. Kate A. Hardy, at the moment, reveals many images of other Kate Hardys and just occasionally one of me.

 

Self-editing is fine, even enjoyable but actual, real, serious advice from someone who knows the writing industry is invaluable.

As my finger was hovering over the ‘yes, go ahead, publish your book’ again on Lulu Publishing, this time I stopped and wondered about a different way. ‘Hoxton‘ was on its eighth or so draft. I had listened to incredibly helpful comments from many readers and acted on their suggestions in most cases. Some people, (hello Bob!), had spent many hours thinking about the way certain sections of the book were constructed and picked up on all sorts of continuity embarrassments, and for all these points I will be always grateful. But it’s easy to continue, still including favourite elements, phrases even chapters that you know are perhaps not quite working, even if friends and readers have told you as much.

So, the different way. I investigated a literary consultancy’s web site on the recommendation of a writer friend; sent off my trial chapter, was accepted and then the whole manuscript sent to an industry editor: a tad scary . . .

A month later back came the notes, and wow, what a mine of usefulness it was/is. After the initial very deep breath and following careful study of everything said, I constructed a list of points to talk over. We will meet later this month and I will start dissecting the book (already have, in fact) and piecing it back together, as I should have done if I had really listened to my misgivings and other peoples.