I had two nice emails today. Amazon emailed me to say that there was a new version of Choc Lit Love Match, which I purchased ages ago (before I was signed up with Choc Lit), to tell me that I could update the version on my Kindle for free. This, I promptly did. And Choc Lit emailed me to confirm that my short story ‘Just Add Milk’ was now added to Love Match.
These two emails were a small reminder of how lucky I am. For years (decades even!) I wanted to be a published author. When I finally left uni, I suddenly found that people in normal jobs have (gasp) their evenings FREE! No guilt saying I should be doing some work, no thesis to write, no journal papers to read. Whole evenings and weekends, gloriously guilt free. So, what did I do? I got a bit over excited and signed up for a creative writing course. My course finished without my achieving anything major, but it reminded me what I loved about writing.
A few months later, I started working in London – which was a loooong commute from Oxfordshire. Sometime around then, I discovered the BBC Get Writing project. This, if you haven’t heard of it, was a wonderful initiative run by the BBC where published writers and unpublished ones were on a forum together. It was a wonderful site, sadly missed. I still had delusions of writing the literary masterpiece back then, and I hung around the short story writers forums. There I learned about the craft of writing and about discipline. I learned to write for an hour every weeknight. I learned to edit my writing, to pare it down and make the words that were left work harder. All that practice (an hour a day, writing anything, even prompt based flash fiction, is brilliant training) meant that the lessons somehow sank into my bones so that I no longer had to spend half an hour honing 200 words. I suppose I still could do that and end up with 150 even better words, but my first 200 words will be a lot less flabby the the ones I used to write.
By the time I changed jobs so that I didn’t have to commute, I had written thousands of words. I could write flash fiction pieces, but couldn’t plot for toffee (even though I thought I could). So I took another creative writing course. This one didn’t teach me to plot, but it introduced me to my writing buddy, Jen Hicks. Jen taught me to plot. Or rather, we taught each other. We’re still teaching and learning from each other. If I fail to kill my darlings, Jen will point them out for me.
I finished writing my first novel. I polished it and sent it off to agents (my god, how naive was I?!). A few nice rejections, including a few encouraging ones, later, I joined the RNA. From the RNA I learned so much, about everything related to the business. My first NWS feedback report told me that I needed to work on plot. So I did. I read plot book after plot book. Eventually, I improved. It’s still not sunk into my bones yet, it may never do that, but it improved enough for me to write three books that other people wanted to publish.
Which brings me nicely to two emails about one anthology, which is so much more than a collection of stories. It’s an introduction to the authors who write for Choc Lit. Twenty two stories, one from each of us so that you can choose whose style you like and start from there. I read books published by Choc Lit ever since they published their first book ‘The Importance of Being Emma’. I’ve loved nearly all of them. I hope you do too.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to make myself a hot chocolate and bask in my own smugness for a few minutes. After that, I’m going to do some writing.