In 2010, I had a dream that I wrote a book. So when I woke up that’s just what I did.
Ok. You got me. To be fair, it wasn’t quite like that. First I had to come up with an idea for the plot and then learn how to actually do it but in essence that’s what happened.
And now, as we hit the end of the decade, I’m working full time as an author with four international number 1 bestselling titles behind me and a publishing contract for three more. I truly am living my own dream.
But, whilst there’s no denying that I put the hours in learning how to write a book that people want to read, the actual success came almost by chance. And if that can happen to me then it can happen to anyone.
LET’s start at the very beginning . . .
Now, ten years is a long time and it can be tricky to remember exactly how you were feeling – unless, of course, you were writing a blog at the time which is just like a very public diary. I began my blog in 2008 when I was starting to believe that my decade working as a commercial lawyer had entirely dashed any creativity out of me. It was early days for bloggers back then and I managed to build up a reasonable following by just chatting about my day to day life at home with our four children.
However, despite my habitual honesty online, it took me around six months to confess to my readers that I was writing a novel. (The links in this piece will take you back to each relevant post in case you’re interested.) I just didn’t feel brave enough to share my literary aspirations with the world. I worried that people would laugh or roll their eyes or that I would fail very publicly. So I kept it to myself. (NB: A lack of confidence is a bit of a theme to this post.)
A room of one’s own . . .
All writers need a place to write and in a busy household it can be hard to find a corner, but I knew that if I was serious then I needed to show the rest of the family. So I stole a corner of the playroom. My space was tiny, the desk just a metre square but it was all mine. I told the children that it had a forcefield around it and that anyone who went near would be zapped into oblivion! They didn’t believe me but at least they understood that it was important to me for some reason and they respected that.
It might sound silly but, looking back, carving out this space from our busy family home was deeply symbolic. I was telling them all that I was going to be doing something that was purely for me which was, at that stage, a first.
My First disappointment. . .
By October 2010 I had made a discovery. I didn’t write as I imagined I would. I had always assumed that my book would be a work of literary fiction, that I would set to and something akin to Mantel or Faulkes would pour forth from my fingers. It didn’t. It turned out that my writing style was nothing like theirs and whilst I hadn’t known that I was harbouring literary ambitions when I started out, it was still disappointing to discover that I didn’t have that kind of talent.
So, my solution to how to make me write more like someone else was to go back to university. A Masters in Creative Writing, I thought. That’s what I needed. The one I fancied was at Lancaster but at the time you needed a degree in English Literature to apply. Mine degree was in Law and of no use whatsoever to me.
So I started a degree course part time with the Open University. It took me six years, completing modules whilst the children were at school, and I kept writing novels throughout, producing about one a year, deciding they weren’t up to scratch and so starting again.
BUT is your book any good . . .
How do you know? How can you tell if what you’re writing would hold the attention of a reader? This was a huge conundrum. I was too scared to send out what I had in case it wasn’t ready but I had no way of knowing whether it would pass muster or not.
I came up with two solutions, both of which put me so far beyond my comfort zone that I didn’t think I’d ever get back. First, I gave my novel to my book club to read which has to go down as the most terrifying night of my writer’s life thus far ( and possibly my entire life!)
Encouraged by the book club’s response, I blogged my second novel a chapter at a time and asked for feedback from anyone who wanted to read it. Talk about walking into the lion’s den! ‘Hey world! Here’s my heart and soul on a plate and a fork to prod it with – do your worst.’
But it went well. Despite my blind terror, people seemed to like the book and if I was ever late posting a chapter I got complaints from readers eager for the next part! It was all very encouraging but I knew something still wasn’t right with what I was writing. I just hadn’t quite hit my target.
I had none. Even though I thought this book was better than all the others I still knew it wasn’t quite there. So I sent my book to a literary consultancy for a review. The editor liked it, gave me some helpful pointers and was generally enthusiastic.
But I didn’t really believe her.
Next I went on a course on editing. The tutors liked it too. I didn’t believe them either but by now I had been at it for six years and I had been banging on about being a writer for so long that I was going to have to do something if I was going to hang on to any self-respect. The tutors suggested that I tried to find an agent and gave me the name of three to try. So, I sent my first three chapters to them, they each asked to see more but none of them picked it up.
And so it was confirmed – my book was rubbish! I didn’t dare try anyone else. I just couldn’t bear the idea of someone taking my dream away.
By now we’re in 2016. My husband had been telling me for around two years about the self-publishing revolution that he’d been reading about but I had refused to listen. It was too big and too hard and how could I possibly put a book out into the world without having the validation of a publisher or at very least an agent?
But FINALLY I start to think that he might be on to something. Maybe I could try . . .
ENTER Lucinda Fox.
Still too scared to put my own stuff out there, I decided to try a different tack. I had written a book for young girls as part of National Write a Novel in a Month (NaNoWriMo). I could practise with that, I thought. So I picked a name, bought the domain name and began. It was a technical challenge – I’m not that able on a computer – but with a lot of help from my husband I managed to get the book up on Amazon in ebook and paperback. (And three covers and a name change later Lucinda’s books are still selling most days!)
And it was ok! The world didn’t implode and readers seemed to like it. And so finally, finally I felt brave enough to have a go myself. I did Mark Dawson’s brilliant 101 course, learned everything I needed to know and in June 2017 I published my first book under my own name.
AND PEOPLE BOUGHT IT . . .
lots of people, or so it felt to me at the time. Soon I’d sold 600 copies and got plenty of ***** reviews that all raved about it. I was so excited and finally felt like I might actually be able to call myself a writer. (But not out loud, you understand!)
And then, in July 2017 around six weeks after I had published, I got an email. I thought it was a vanity publishing scam at first but it turned out that it was from a commissioning editor at Amazon Publishing, Amazon’s own publishing house. She had read the book, loved it and wondered what else I was working on.
And the rest, as they say, is history . . .
And so here I am eighteen months later. I have three books published which have all reached number 1 in at least one kindle store. I have a German translation which sat at number 1 in Germany for a month and a second one due out shortly. As I type this I have sold 415,679 books in thirty six countries and I am contracted to write another three novels and I have a multi-six figure earning business. This is the stuff of dreams for me. I mean, who knew?!
Not me, that’s for sure. When I first hit upon the idea of writing a novel when this decade began I could have had no idea where I would be as we welcome the 2020s. In fact, if you’d told me I wouldn’t have believed you.
And the moral of this story?
please don’t GIVE UP on your dreams . . .
because you never know what is waiting for you just around the corner.