Author Helen Mackinven launches her debut novel, Talk of the Toun, with a wonderful blog post:
Recently I attended the launch of a fellow debut writer with my friend. We squeezed past crowds gathered round a groaning buffet table laden with fancy canapes, cute cupcakes and wine to find a seat. The bookstore was mobbed; there was an excited buzz about the place and an overwhelming swell of goodwill for the author, a very lovely and talented woman. It was a great event and I felt proud to have any connection with the writer, she’s worked really hard to get to this point.
The extract she read aloud was delivered with flair and she answered the questions from the audience with a sharp wit and self-deprecating humour. My friend nudged me as I sat in awe, ‘That’ll be you soon!’ My stomach churned. What if no one comes to my launch? What if my reading falls flat and I stumble on answers to questions? What ifs made a lump of acid in my throat that was hard to swallow back down.
In the days that followed the launch event it felt as if ever newspaper I opened, every other Tweet and Facebook post I read was about the debut novel. The media coverage was fantastic (and well deserved, I read and loved the novel) and again I felt a ball of nervous tension like being in the queue for a rollercoaster, way past the point of no return and wondering why I’d ever thought it would be a good idea to chase the dream of being published. I’m with a small Scottish independent publisher, with no dedicated publicist on the team, no direct links with major media outlets. What if my debut is published and then sinks without a trace?
And then I realised that I had to stop comparing myself to any other writer, especially after reading this excellent article, ‘Ask Polly: Should I Just Give Up on My Writing?’ In the letter, the agony aunt is asked by a midlist writer if there’s any point in competing in a crowded market and her advice is, “You have to aim high but you also have to commit yourself to the work you love and believe in without any expectation that it will bring you success.”
This was a reality check for me, of course I would like to see my book do well, but here’s the crux of it, I wrote it because I had a story to tell. Polly goes on to say, “Instead of looking up at the best-selling writers climbing upward above you, look below, to the struggling, younger writers beneath you. Reach out a hand, and pull them up. Tell them what you know. Give them a little hope, a little focus, a few practical skills.” For me, that sums up what being part of The Prime Writers group is all about, not comparing stats but supporting each other to get through the, ‘what if…’ moments and sharing those feelings so that other writers don’t feel alone in battling their inner critics and egos.
If you want to know more about me and my writing, you can follow the Talk of the Toun blog tour for a pick ‘n’ mix of guest posts and interviews.