Something New

I recently had the opportunity to attend three events at the Oswestry LitFest. Armed with the tickets I had won, courtesy of the Shropshire Star, and the company of fellow Wrekin Writer Angeline Wheeler off we went. We weren’t entirely sure of directions but we just left caution to the wind and like a couple of explorers we headed for Oswestry and hoped for the best.

I have been to literary festivals before, the Hay being the big one, but although I had thought about going to Oswestry, I hadn’t yet had the chance, so it was a completely new thing for me. I also did not know any of the speakers we there to see. I didn’t know what the authors had written, the kind of clients the literary agent was after or who the editor edited for. Did my lack of knowledge matter? Not one bit.

Sometimes, as writers, we can find the thought of trying something new daunting. I know I do. But getting yourself out there and experiencing new things inspire us to write more and can invigorate our writing. You never know what might come of your new experience or what you might learn.

Something I learned there was that agents are not scary beings to be feared and wary of. The agent who was there was approachable and encouraging and she helped to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding the whole business of pitching to an agent. The authors that we heard from also took us along their journeys of writing their successful memoirs. I don’t write memoir and I haven’t, yet, written a novel to completion that I would want to send out to anyone but what they all said still resonated with me and could be applied to whatever you write.

The main thing I learned was that you shouldn’t ever give up. One author gave an example of her friend who had written a book and had said that she was going to send it off to four agents and if they all said no she would give up. The agent gave a gasp of horror. Don’t ever do that, she warned, because you never know if the fifth or sixth or any number of agents after that would have been the one who loved your work and wanted to see more.

It was also reiterated that you should write what you want to write, not what you think the current or future trend might be because by the time you’ve written it the publishing and reader world will have moved on to the next trend.

But the main thing was to get it written. Don’t let the fear of rejection from an agent stop you from putting words down on the page. It’s how I did the three books for Pen and Sword and how I’ll do the fourth for them too. I started with one word, followed by another and then another, until I had my first sentence. Then I write another sentence, followed by another sentence, until I had a paragraph. Before I knew it, I had a page then a chapter and eventually, a whole book. One of the memoir authors said that because he wasn’t sure he could write a book his editor made him write 1000 words of his book a day, step by step, page by page and to his surprise (and the editor’s relief) he wrote the book.

Now I know I am capable of writing non-fiction books and getting them published, maybe, just maybe I do have it in me to write a novel, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, chapter by chapter. After all, as the agent at the LitFest said, if your writing is good enough. It will find a home if you don’t give up.

We all belong to the same writing group, we all share a passion for writing, but how many of us, who want to be published writers, actually have the courage and motivation to sit down and write that poem, article, novel or non-fiction book? If we haven’t yet got round to it what it is that has stopped us? Is it really lack of time or is it the way we think?

Spring is a time of new beginnings so why not stop making excuses or telling yourself that your writing isn’t good enough, that people like you don’t get publishing deals, because they do. They do because they learned how to write better and they did that by carrying on writing, practising and honing their skills. They didn’t give up and neither must we, but it won’t happen if you’re not prepared to sit down and do the work. It’s time to turn over a new leaf and change the way you think about your writing. Stop blaming other people and circumstances for your inability to write (believe me, I have been there so many times). Stop procrastinating and get on with it; you might be surprised by the results.

Julie Phillips

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