True Grit

true-grit-5This month, we’ve been talking about what made a real difference to our writing lives, from getting us from aspiring to published.  For many, it was pursuing a creative writing MA or professional writing courses, though most felt the real benefit of this came from the support system of fellow students who then became self-sustaining writers’ groups.  For others, it was festivals and residential workshops which offered confidence-building and new, vital connections.  A few of us benefitted from manuscript assessments, with skilful writers and editors who were able to help us see our work with fresh eyes and recommend agents, to help the work move on.
But there were some writers who approached their writing in their own style, whose greatest resource was already inside them – the true grit needed to stick with writing, over the long haul.
51xpn4a-7wL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_For Kerry Drewery, author of the YA novel The Brighter Fear (and a brand new contract with Hot Key Books) it was a “now or never moment” that got her going.  “My youngest was starting school. I had to either go back to work or take a risk on the writing thing. I enrolled on a BA professional writing (fellow Primer Rebecca Mascull was a lecturer there) which was great for being with people who were passionate about writing. I gave myself a deadline of the youngest leaving primary school and if nothing had happened by then, then I’d go back to ‘proper work’. I signed the contract with HarperCollins the June before he left year 6.”
SummertmeNEWVanessa Lafaye, author of Summertime, said it was the story that changed things for her.  “I’ve never done a course or had any professional tutoring, and sometimes really wish that I had. The thing that changed everything for me was finding the right story, which also meant attempting a new genre for the first time. These two things produced writing that was better than my previous attempts  at women’s fiction. The story was everything.
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The Summer of SecretsFor others, it was adversity.  For Sarah Jasmon, author of Summer of Secrets, it started with divorce.  “I’d have to say that my husband leaving was a huge factor, allowing choices, unlocking creativity, having mental space… I wouldn’t actively recommend it as a writing aid, but facing separation gave me space to consider what I really wanted to do with my life.”  For more on Sarah’s journey – and her happy ending – here’s a link to a blog she wrote about it for the Curtis Brown Book Club.
ArtofBaking53Sarah Vaughan, author of The Art of Baking Blind, dared herself to do it.  With her second child starting school, she said, “I started writing in earnest. I turned 40 on the Thursday and drunkenly announced to a group of girlfriends that, in the next year, I was going to finish and publish my novel.  There really was a sense of the start of a new era and of having to achieve something. Stating it publicly – and knowing that financially I had to earn some money within a year – turned my writing into a proper ‘job’.  I’d drop the kids at school then be straight back at my desk. By the beginning of October, I’d written 30,000 words and wrote to my now agent Lizzy Kremer. She got back to me at the very start of January and we worked together from there, going through three or four drafts. We sold it, in a two-book deal, the following October.”
Ordinary JoeJon Teckman, author of Ordinary Joe, found his road to publication was long and twisty.  “I started thinking about writing a novel based in the film business more than ten years ago but did little more than think about it. For my tenth wedding anniversary, my wife bought me a place on an Arvon course and handed it to me with the words, ‘Now stop talking about it and get on with it!’  I began Ordinary Joe when I was at Arvon and got a good response from my fellow participants which encouraged me to keep going. I received a few rejections from agents over the years but carried on revising and improving the manuscript.  In 2013 I got a place on the Curtis Brown Creative six-month novel writing course (at my third attempt) which was excellent and definitely improved my writing, but I still received two further rejections from the agents I submitted to.  I was, not for the first time, on the point of giving the whole thing up as an impossible dream when I heard about the Borough Press open submission window, pressed the send button and crossed my fingers one more time. Three months later I had a publishing deal.’ True grit, indeed!
True_GritUntil we find the team of support that can turn our manuscripts into published novels, for all writers – published or not – it is only self-belief that gets us through.  Whatever your path, however torturous your journey, keep going.  Keep going!