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Lissa Oliver

Writing.ie | Magazine | Writing & Me
lissa-oliver

Lissa Oliver

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None of my family can ever remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I loved books so that was always what I wanted to do; write stories, write books and write anything! I used to never be happy unless I had a pen inmy hand. The pen has now been replaced by a laptop, the extra limb I couldn’t live without!

I write full-time as a horseracing journalist. It is a dream job where I meet the people I admire and then write about them. Such a dream job that I never even dreamed of it ever happening. It was neither through luck nor chance, I just wrote for pleasure and submitted my work at every opportunity. In the end, after 30 years of leisure writing, I got a foot in the door and haven’t looked back since. The only requirements are passion, meeting the deadline and producing the required word count. Don’t make work for an editor and he or she will most definitely give work to you!

If you enjoy what you write then so will others. I always set out to write the articles I want to read. It’s the same with fiction, I conjure up characters in my mind and only when they’ve become my best friends or won my heart do I set them down on paper. By then I’m passionate about their passage through life. Hopefully that will be conveyed to my readers, who will also care about them and want to see them through to the end of their story. Character, I feel, is more important than plot. It’s always the people who keep me hooked in a book, not necessarily what’s about to happen to them.

Writing for magazines is very different to writing novels. You are instantly judged and endorsed whenever an article is published. It’s a tremendous boost to the confidence and there are no excuses or lengthy slush piles. If your article is good enough, it appears in print, and your faith instantly vindicated.

What a lonely world the novel is by comparison! You are writing alone, for months on end, before the submissions even begin. Your novel could spend months again on the slush pile, collecting rejection slips for many other reasons than the actual quality of your work or story. You’re in the dark. Were their lists really full? Did they even read it? Or is it just not as good as you’d hoped? There’s no ‘Pass’ certificate waiting for you at the end of your novel, which only adds to your self-doubt and inner critic.

I’m a very fussy writer.  I edit and fine tune as I go along so my finished work really is my finished work. I can’t really do more to improve upon it as I type my final full stop. My latest novel took just three days to go through the publisher’s editorial process. A few minor changes with punctuation were suggested and that was all. My two previous novels were self-published, so I am a keen and merciless editor!

My rule of thumb is always my eagerness to post off the manuscript. If I’m at all worried about sending it off, then maybe it isn’t ready to go yet. If I can’t wait to kiss the stamp for luck and drop it into the post box, then it is a best seller waiting to be discovered! If it gets rejected, well, that’s just one editor’s personal taste; there are others on the list and more stamps to buy. You might not always have confidence, but you have to retain your faith in your work.

Overnight success is brilliant, when it happens, but bear in mind it can take up to 40 years or more! Who even invented the phrase?! Has anyone literally woken up and been discovered for a talent they hadn’t showcased the day before? The big time might arrive in a sudden swoop, but it took work and dedication to get there. Is it really work? If I had never had work published, I’d still be writing away. It’s the writing that’s the pleasure, the creation of characters and plot. That doesn’t need vindicating.

Great when it happens, though! The characters you so love are suddenly allowed to live and breathe and affect the lives of others. They were dead, imaginary, on your computer screen. Now they’re alive and travelling the world, their exploits discussed by strangers. Your job as a Creator has been successful. And that’s exactly what creative writing is all about.

About the author

(c) Lissa Oliver for writing.ie

Lissa has been a full-time racing journalist for ten years, self-published her first two novels in 2002 and 2004 and signed with publishers Book Republic (as a result of an Irish Pen seminar) in 2010. Her first novel with them, Chantilly Dawns, a racing thriller, was launched in February. www.bookrepublic.ie

Lissa has been nominated for the UK’s Horseracing Journalist of the Year Award (Derby Awards) in 2008, 2009 and 2010, and she won a Special Commendation at the Awards last year. Her first novel, Nero The Last Caesar, self-published, was nominated for the James Tait Award, Longman History Award and long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Chantilly Dawns has been nominated for the Golden Dagger Award for Crime Fiction.

Lissa teaches creative writing with the VEC and is an Executive Officer of the Irish Writers’ Union, as well as serving on the Board of Directors of the Irish Copyright Licensing association. Find out more about her at www.lissaoliver.ie

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