Monday, 29 March 2010

Words from the creaky pulpit

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.


Sue H said...

Well done, Matt! An intelligent, cogent, and honest commentary on the ups AND downs of a writer's life (and lifestyle!!!).

Clearly you need grit and determination, in equal measures to actual writing talent, to succeed. (and perhaps a healthy dose of sheer good luck!)

As for energy and stamina - perhaps some of us have started this 'race' a bit late in the day.....(speaking from my own POV!)

I should steer clear of pulpits, BTW, someone might confuse you with a vicar - and we all know they only work one day a week!! ;-p
(just kiddin'!)

David Barber said...

An insightful and enjoyable read, Matt. I wish you every success with everything you do. I'm self employed, as you probably know, and it's not easy at all. I sometimes think about being employed where the wages are constant week in week out but where's the fun in that? I will strive to be in a similar position writing wise as yourself one day, but until then (if it happens or not) I will "keep on keeping on", becasue its only myself who can cahnge anything.

Great post mate, you're an inspiration to us all.

regards, David.

Col Bury said...

Excellent post, Matt.

You've certainly inspired me.

Onwards n upwards...


Ps. What book launch? You should've mentioned it, fella!

Alan Griffiths said...

Great post Matt.

From reading this I get a real flavour of the highs and lows of your writing journey so far. But, what shines out is that the highs far out way the lows.

Wishing you the very best of luck for the book launch and the sales thereafter.

Kind regards.

Matt Hilton said...

Thanks folks.

yeah, it's always my intention to keep things real and say it as it is.

Sue: It's never too late to start.

Dave:It's the satisfaction of being self-employed that make the hours worth it, I'm sure you'll agree?

Col: Didn't I mention that? Damn,it's this Wednesday too... ;-)

Alan: You're right. The lows are few and far between and come nowhere near the highs. It's bloomin' great, mate.

Glaznost said...

That was bloody inspiring mate, as it always is when you put your heart on the page. It's renewed my determination to get published, despite my agent taking forever with the latest books (due to extreme business i know, but frustrating nonetheless).
Being an ex-police officer and a martial artist as well, if i'm honest there have been times when i've thought "what am i doing wrong that Matt's got right, surely that's not fair!", but then i realise that you can only ever judge yourself by your own standards, and judging yourself by someone else's will just drive you nuts. Unless, of course, you are talking about Cross Country. If you don't write better than that you don't deserve to be published!
I think that what i'm trying to say is that from the moment i first read DMD, i was inspired by you and have continued to be so, and probably will be long into my published career.

Top show mate.

Matt Hilton said...

Cheers Paul,
I genuinely feel humble now.

You're obviously doing right to have captured an agent as is, so don't be despondent, mate. Sounding trite (again) keep on keeping on with it. The rewards are there to be reaped.

BTW - I'm with you on Cross Country. WTF happened there?

Glaznost said...

I think Cross Country was proof positive that no matter how bad the writing is, a Name will sell a book. Not that Patterson wrote it, he clearly just signed the contract, slipped his cheque in his pocket and let some second rate wannabe writer whose uncle works at the publishers write the book.

Maybe i should put that review on Amazon...

Alan said...

Thanks for giving all us writers inspiration again, Matt. It would be all too easy for you to take your cheque and sit back, but you are tireless in spurring us all on. The first agent I sent my novel to didn't reply, even when I asked them politely if they were still considering it. I didn't get despondent. I just sent it out to another one. I'm still waiting to hear, but that's all part of the writing game for beginners, right? Meantime, on with the next one. And when my back is finally sorted, I'll be able to sit for longer periods. Until then, I do what I can do. Like David, I will keep on keeping on.

Matt Hilton said...

Thanks for the kind words Alan, and I hope that your back is giving you less suffering every day. You have my sympathy, mate. Don't know how I'd manage if i couldn't sit at my desk all day!

Paul, I agree with you on Cross Country. Now this isn't to disparage James Patterson, because I respect the man immensely for what he's done for thriller writing in general and Along Came A Spider and Kiss the Girls remain two of my all-time favourite books, but I totally agree with you about CC. I think it was a story written by someone else, and with a couple name changes and scenes at the beginning to include Alex Cross staples, the book was just churned out. I fear (I haven't read it yet) that Alex Cross's Trial and I, Alex Cross will be the same. I was one of those readers who used to leap at anew Patterson. Sadly, I don't now. SAIL! Aaaaarghhhh!

Joyce said...

This was a very insightful post and it helps those of us still at the beginning stage. My son made it possible for me to retire and write full time (in between helping to raise my grandchildren). I wouldn't trade a second of either journey. My grandson is a fledging crime fiction writer as well, so let me tell you, there's a dream come true.

There's a lot of encouragement in your words and I hope you realize how important your sharing your experiences is. We need to work hard and believe in ourselves, and come what may, there is such joy in the ability to create lives and their stories. I really enjoy your work and wish you nothing but continued success.