In just a little over 45 hours I will officially launch the third in my Joe Hunter series of books called Slash and Burn. Regulars visiting this blog are probably sick to the back teeth of hearing me say that (or something similar), but I set out to write this blog as a record of my high and lows on the path from base beginner to published author. The fact that I'm now approaching my third publication but still feel like a base beginner kind of proves the point about writing: you never stop learning.
Every day there's something new and exciting - sometimes scary - about the process, and I still feel that I'm only now testing the waters of the world of authorship. I'm still a minnow in a very large ocean, so still believe my words of encouragement are valid to others just setting out on this same voyage of discovery.
When I dreamed of having my by-line on a book, I never imagined anything to the magnitude of my personal success. I believed that some day I'd have a book published, maybe with a small print run and a 'let's wait and see' attitude from the publisher. To secure a five book deal with one of the major publishing houses in the world, and a three book deal with yet another (not to mention translations in four different languages), it exceeded my dream to the power of about 10,000.
Some people may envy my success, some may be proud of me, some people may think that I don't deserve what I've got, some may think that I'm the next big thing. All those emotions and thoughts I admit to having when I've heard of similar successes in the past (particularly when a ghost-written book by some second rate celebrity is the bestselling novel of the week) and I can understand people's sentiments. I've had some amazing support from old and new friends, but I've also had my detractors. That's OK. It is patently obvious to me that my writing won't please everyone. Any way, the point I'm trying to make here is that if you're an aspiring author with dreams of the big time, get ready to take bucket-loads of criticism good and bad. If you're the shy and retiring type, are you sure that you are ready to take on the challenge of promoting yourself?
I'm very fortunate in that I am under the wing of two of the largest publishing houses in the world. The efforts that they go to to publicise and spread the word about my books is phenomenal, but I still have to do my share. I set off with the intention of making this writing lark my life, and have committed to doing everything (legal and decent) to ensure that. I have to do as much writing to push myself (hence these blogs etc) as i do to complete a book. But that's all part of the deal and the world that I want to enter.
Over at Paul D. Brazill's blog, You Would Say That Wouldn't You? He quotes a line from an old movie. I'll paraphrase it as: 'Are you still working or just doing the writing these days?'. Well, if I had a (tax-free) tenner for every time someone asks me the same thing I'd be a very wealthy man. The reality is that I've held down very physical jobs, very demanding jobs, with long hours and plenty of stresses. But now, as a self-employed author, I work far harder than ever before. I put in many hours, every day of the week. Even when I'm not at the laptop, I'm considering things, answering phone calls, or organising future events and such. It's bloody hard graft, I'll tell you. But every second spent is worth it. I wouldn't have it any other way.
If you're an aspiring author - particularly if you want to break into the world of commercial fiction - are you ready for the work that you are about to undertake?
Here's another line that would make me wealthy if I was paid for listening to it: "The writing's going well, eh, Matt? I think I will write a book." This is normally from someone whose only prior writing was done at school decades ago.
When I hear that I just smile to myself. Let them try, I think. People who have been following this blog probably know what kind of task they're letting themselves in for. It's hard work writing a book. It's even harder getting it published. Then the work doesn't stop there, it only gets harder. But...and its a big BUT...I wouldn't have it any other way. I love it. And I hope it's an enduring love affair for many years to come.
Another reason I started writing this record was to encourage other writers. I've waxed lyrical about wanting to give something back before so won't go into it again. Except to say, I'm very proud that some of my ramblings have helped to inspire others and that they are now beginning to reap some of the rewards. I won't go into names because you probably already know who you are, but there are writers who are now having their work recognised throughout the blogosphere and now have their work featured at other sites and in anthologies and other print venues. I salute you all, and say, keep on keeping on.
So endeth the sermon.