Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Five Steps to a Becoming An Author

I've been a published writer for a heap of years and I'm often asked how I started. I'd dabbled as far back as school. Started stories but with no idea how to finish them.

This is my first published writing ever. It was bought by a magazine (still going strong) called Women's Weekly and they paid me £20. I was finally in print.

Ambition # 1 ticked.

I wrote an article about having a baby in Bahrein (she's now the lovely Mummy Blogger Hooked), was paid £40 for that and I had the money for a portable typewriter. Two articles meant it wasn't a fluke. I was a writer!

Ambition #2 ticked.

Every afternoon the BBC broadcast an iconic radio programme for small children called Listen With Mother that began "Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...'

I had small children and every afternoon we sat comfortably and listened. There were songs, poems and a story and I thought - as you do - how hard can it be to write a little story like that?

The answer was, is, that's it's a lot harder that you think. Starting is easy... Of you go with a lost button, a plain coathanger, a homeless cat.... Finishing it was the tough one but I battled through with the plain coathanger. It was a rubbish but I'd written a beginning, a middle and an end.

My second attempt, with the homeless cat found a home with D C Thomson, a famous British company publishing magazines and comics. A New Home was published in their Twinkle annual that year. Twinkle was a "picture paper" for little girls and I wrote a lot of stuff for them. (This is one...) Poems (they paid best), short stories for the annual and a ton of comic strip stories for the picture paper itself. I just wrote the words (and described what should be in the picture) - I didn't draw the pictures.

It looks very simple but you have to cram a lot into a very few words. It's direct, active and low on adverbs. Very good training. I was earning an income from writing, having meetings with a publisher to discuss what I might to do next. I was being taken seriously as a writer.

Ambition #3 ticked.

I also had half a dozen stories accepted by Listen With Mother and still have tape recordings somewhere of the programmes in which they were read out. That was huge. Really. And my son's Reception teacher had the whole class listen to one of them - and I made the local newspaper!

Ambition # 4 well and truly ticked.

It was fun and I loved doing this but it was no way to make a living as a writer. I needed to move on. I sold a few more articles to women's magazines, including the iconic The Lady.

The next big step was winning a competition in the magazine Writing with a short ghost story, which was a huge confidence boost. But where next?

I wanted to write full length fiction. I had just embarked on a children's story (involving a magic carpet and sheikhs....) when I read an article in a British newspaper about Anne Hampson and Charlotte Lamb (both living in tax exile - Charlotte in the Isle of Man, Anne in the West Indies.  Ambition #5 was to be Anne Hampson!

It was a very steep learning curve. I completed three manuscripts, got encouraging feedback from Mills and Boon and finally, with my fourth attempt - this time just three chapters and cheeky note saying that I'd like to know if they liked it enough for me to bother finishing it - I hooked the interest of an editor. She liked the writing, wasn't convinced by the plot and told me to start again.

I walked around in a daze for a week.

This was huge, my big chance and if I blew it...

I rethought my heroine and gave her some sound motivation, put her in the most uncomfortable situation I could imagine and nine months later - after three rewrites! - I finally got the call to tell me that they would be publishing An Image of You.

Ambition #5 ticked and nailed to the wall!

I loved the original cover and I also love that Mills and Boon have recently reissued this book in digital format so that it's available again.

My next book, The Sheikh's Convenient Princess, published early next year, will be my 65th title for Mills and Boon.

So do I have any ambitions left? Well I've never made tax exile like Anne Hampson and Charlotte Lamb, but yes. There's always something bigger, something just over the horizon to be reached for. I'll keep you posted!

Liz Fielding's A Summer's Lease will be free on Amazon from 8th-12th September.


Ann Cameron said...

Great post. It shows all want-to-be writers how hard it is! Thank you for sharing.

dstoutholcomb said...

Congratulations on pursuing your dreams!


Liz Fielding said...

Thanks, Ann. It's like anything that's worthwhile, it takes time to learn the basics. And you never stop learning. A lot of people give up when they're rejected but it's part of the process.

Liz Fielding said...

Thanks so mucyh, Denise. Fulfilling your dreams is hard work and it never gets 3easier. You just learn what pitfalls to avoid. Mostly. :)