12 months in as an aspiring authoress I look back to the first tender weeks of my authorship journey – and give myself a little condescending tap on the head.
I think it’s sweet that I had intended on not only submitting a fully polished novel to competitions and awards, but that I would have found an agent and be well on the way to securing a publishing deal… in one year.
So how did the authoress get on? Where in the process is she now? Let’s skip forward to January 2019…
I'm on chapter two.
Now let’s get a few things straight – this isn’t because I didn’t do the work, or I was lazy or gave up, far from it. I worked tirelessly, dedicating hours and hours to research, writing, reading, courses…
The past year has taught me a tremendous amount. Not least, the reason I got 15,000 words in to my children’s novel and SCRAPPED it all.
When I set myself a goal, I approach it with dogged focus and determination. I work strictly to a rule book that I create for myself. One such rule was this:
DO NOT EDIT AS YOU WRITE.
And boy, did I stick to it! I adopted this writing process for a full year, never once editing a word I had written, nor did I read any of it back.
What a humongous mistake.
The mistake was not the 'DO NOT EDIT' part, rather my inflexibility in my writing approach.
I knew it wasn’t working because I found myself discarding new ideas, knowing that to weave them into the plot I would have to edit earlier chapters, which I was not prepared to do.
I was sticking to the rules, I was in too deep – too focused on the end goal of writing the first draft.
My 2019 expectations are naturally going to be wholly subjective, but there are five more general thoughts that I would like to share with all writers. Starting, of course, with this one:
1. BE FLEXIBLE
There is nothing wrong with setting yourself targets, milestones, rules or boundaries. But acknowledge when they are unachievable or just not working - don’t feel afraid to do something about it.
I knelt over a huge piece of paper in my jim-jams and re-plotted my entire story. I was at peace with discarding 15,000 words that weren’t working. I haven’t deleted them – they have taught me so much.
2. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
We are our own worst critic, our own worst enemy. Celebrate the words you have written, do not berate yourself for the unwritten ones.
How often I start a day with a long chapter content list – and finish the day with just the first two bullet points crossed through. Be kind to yourself, it takes time.
3. WRITE FOR 'YOU'
‘How’s the writing going? Finished it yet?’ Ah, don’t you just love those well-intentioned questions? They can add huge amounts of pressure to writers, especially if you’ve had a particularly slow writing day. But unless you choose to write in secret, they’re not going anywhere. Remind yourself that you are writing for you, in your own time. If it takes you one, three, five or even ten years to finish – so be it.
Having chosen to document my aspiring authorship so publicly, these are questions I get asked – a lot. Initially I would reply, ‘absolutely great, loving it.’ Whereas now I try to be much more honest: ‘do you know what, it’s really bloody hard.’
4. DON'T FEEL GUILTY
No matter how well intentioned you are, life WILL get in the way of writing, it always does – especially if you are trying to squeeze it in between a full-time job, kids, DIY or another project… Where you can, protect your writing time, guard it fiercely, but if you only manage to squeeze in an hour or nothing at all - don’t feel guilty.
I hadn’t factored ‘save for wedding’ into my 12 month writing plan – I didn’t know he would propose. This meant having to accept offers of overtime at ‘paid work’, consequently eating into my writing days for weeks and weeks at a time. Life just happens this way.
5. LEARN TO SAY 'NO'
Have you ever encountered the comment from friends or family: ‘You’re off work tomorrow aren’t you, shall we do XYZ.’ Never feel afraid to say ‘no’ – ‘I am working tomorrow, tomorrow is a writing day.' Just because you may not be paid for it doesn’t mean that you ‘have a day off’. You wouldn’t take annual leave for a trip to the cinema would you?
This has happened a lot over the past year and I am much better at saying, ‘sorry, I am working that day.’ Protect your writing days, they are so valuable.
And there we have it. Words of wisdom from a newbie writer on chapter two of her first novel.
You might already have set yourself New Year’s Writing Resolutions – or done nothing of the kind.
But 2019 is OUR year.
Let's crack on!
Kayleigh Keam works as a Writer and Director at CBeebies, regularly writing scripts for Television and Radio for children under six. She also compiles a shortlist of picture books submitted by publishers for CBeebies Bedtime Stories. Last year Kayleigh took the plunge towards attempted children's authorship, cutting her hours at the BBC to concentrate on a very different type of writing. Follow her journey on Twitter and Instagram #KKsDiary