Funny or dark, adult or children’s? Which to choose? Many writers I’ve met – they’ve instinctively known which genre to write for the moment they put pen to paper.
Me – I chose wrongly.
I started off my writing career enjoying the full benefits of plagiarism. I was aged eight when, having finished Enid Blyton’s ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’, I decided, fists furled, a writer was what I was going to be.
And this I achieved – in my very first book – by skimming off many of Faraway Tree’s fine plotlines, changing the names for some originality (Fuzzybottom was one if I remember correctly – I was at the age where adding bottom to anything had me in stitches (ahem, still does sometimes))
Fortunately, my career in literary crime ended here. But I continued to write books inspired by the writers I read most. My reading diet, and my writing attempts, followed the trajectory of my age, from children’s books, to teenage books (back then there were about three), to in-between books (from Jane Austen to Jilly Cooper) and finally to adult fiction, when I became….an adult (in age only).
I spent the next years of my life writing books that took years to develop and longer to finish. All adult, mainly funny (well, trying to be). I submitted, I got rejected, I submitted, I nearly got there, I got rejected. And so on and so, drudgingly, forth.
Until one day: an epiphany, in the form of an idea that strolled casually into my head from out of nowhere. A teenage protagonist who sat down irreverently in my imagination and introduced herself and her problem.
It was such a new experience – LAND took only six weeks to write the first draft – then, soon after, delivered my long sought holy grail….a book deal.
All these years of struggling to get published – suddenly I had the answer – I’d simply been writing the wrong kind of books.
When I told one close friend my debut YA novel was to be published, she gaped at me as if I was mad, “well of course,” she said, “anyone who watches as much Buffy and Dawson’s as you is surely only meant to write teenage”.
Why hadn’t I seen it before myself? It was a hard pill to swallow – clearly I’d never really known myself as a writer. I’d simply just been desperate to fit in. What I’m meant to be and what I really am – it’s a theme I’ve probably struggled with all my life. Like fashion, when I was younger – I wanted to be on-trend, regardless of whether the clothes suited me. So it was I had tried to push my square peg into a round hole, rather than experiment with genres to suit my writer’s voice, my style….my experiences.
If it hadn’t been for LAND swaggering into my head, maybe I’d still be there.
I take a deep breath before I start a new book now. I try to make sure any idea comes from deep inside, not influenced by anything I want to be or wish to write like. I try and push back any insecurities or desires to fit that might lead me down the wrong writer’s path. I try and believe in the writer’s voice that comes to me naturally rather than letting it become affected from how others write.
It’s a liberating process – but boy do I wish I’d found the truth in me years earlier… it might have saved me a lot in submission postage.