I have a confession to make. I am an impatient writer. I have a head full of ideas and countless lovely notebooks full of scribbled outlines and I cannot wait to turn them all into wonderful novels. And I want to write them all now – today, tomorrow, next week. I don’t want to have to wait a year for my next novel to be published. I am in a hurry. I am passionate. I am so excited to be writing and publishing novels that I want everything to happen at once.
But several things have happened recently which have reminded me that I need to take a step back, slow down and get some perspective.
And the three things that have happened are: Jojo Moyes, Sinead Moriarty and Rowan Coleman. These brilliant women have all had hugely exciting things happen with their recent novels, and wow do they deserve it.
For Jojo, it started with a novel called Me Before You. It was her tenth novel (it has now sold three million copies worldwide). In 2013 it was a Richard & Judy Summer Read, a World Book Night book and was nominated for the National Book Awards Book of the Year. Oh, and it is also being made into a movie. And if that wasn’t enough, her current novel One Plus One is also being given the Hollywood treatment, and Jojo is writing the screenplay. As Chandler Bing would say, ‘Could it be any more exciting?’
Sinead Moriarty (will she kill me if I call her a national treasure?!), has enjoyed huge success with all her books, but her recent novel, Mad About You, was chosen for this year’s Richard & Judy Summer Reads. This was Sinead’s ninth novel. She has just released her tenth, The Secrets Sisters Keep, which is currently enjoying several consecutive weeks as a number one best seller in the Irish charts.
Rowan Coleman’s 2013 novel, Dearest Rose (her eighth novel) won the RNA Epic Romantic Novel Award and her ninth novel, The Memory Book, has just been announced as a Richard & Judy Book Club Autumn Read and is currently riding high in the charts in Germany. Rowan also writes as Scarlett Bailey, so usually publishes two novels a year under each of her names.
So, what do these writers all have in common? They have all worked at their craft for years and while they have had great success with their previous novels, with those mentioned above, something different happened, something shifted. Their writing has moved to a new level – the level writers such as me can see only as a glint in our debut-hungry eyes.
And they have something else in common. They are all brilliant examples of how this business of writing is very much a marathon and not a sprint. It takes time, dedication and years of writing excellent novels and honing your craft to develop a career, to find loyal readers and to get to that magical place where something else happens, where the fairy dust arrives and that breakout book takes off and sends you soaring with it.
I’m impatient, yes, and I know that anyone trying to get published may be even more so. But perhaps we all need to slow down, enjoy where we are now, savour the moment and enjoy our own personal writing successes, whatever that might be. These things take time. The vast majority of us won’t land a publishing deal with our first attempt at a novel, or possibly with our second or third attempt. Nor will we get a Booker nomination or land a movie deal with our debut when it is finally published. We are all, understandably, in a rush, but the reality is that we have to be prepared to be in this for the long haul, if we are really serious.
If the success of Jojo, Sinead and Rowan are anything to go by, I have at least seven more novels to write before R&J and Hollywood come a-knocking. But I’m so inspired by them and I know I am on the right path. I may have only taken a few, tentative steps on that path, but I am proud to say that I have a successful debut novel to my name and a second novel coming early next year, and I’m so excited to see where this crazy life as a writer will take me in the future.
(and yes, that is me in the blue t shirt on the left, finishing the 2001 London Marathon! And no – never again.)