I started writing my first book when I was about 9 or 10. It was about a group of animals that lived in the woods, and I wrote it for my little brother. At around the same age my parents bought me my first diary and I started journalling. A habit that still hasn’t left me. At 23 I had dreams of becoming a novelist so I set about writing the work that was going to make me famous. I wrote 80,000 words of a story titled The Shoebox while I should have been working in my day job, and then sent off a submission to one agency which I had hand-picked from the Writers and Artists Yearbook at the library.
They sent back my chapters with a scrawled sentence on the front of some headed paper:
It’s not for us, sorry. But good luck!
Very soon after that I was told that someone had read some of the pages of that novel (I’d left them lying around for editing – the shame), and they had stated it was “rubbish”.
I threw hundreds of printed pages away and deleted the entire thing from my hard drive. I didn’t write any fiction for 15 years.
At 38, after many years of writing and editing in technical subjects as part of my job, I started to dabble again, still unable to shake the feeling that it was what I was meant to be doing.
This time I sent a short story off for a competition and paid extra for a critique from the judge. I wanted an opinion from someone more objective, just to see if I really was as crap as I’d been led to believe. After pointing out a couple of minor issues, her final verdict was:
You clearly have talent and I hope to see more of your work.
Wondering if perhaps I wasn’t completely rubbish after all, I wrote some more. I entered and won two flash fiction competitions (here, and here) within a month of each other. The following year I had a new novel longlisted in the Mslexia Women’s Novel Competition.
I’m still writing 🙂