It’s my book birthday today. The Honours is finally released into the wild. It’s in shops. Yesssss.
It occurred to me that, rather than farting on about myself and how I feel (spoiler: I feel good), it might be worth acknowledging that books don’t get written by one person. That’s a romantic myth.
I had a bunch of people who helped me at all different stages in the process – so many, in fact, that my acknowledgements had to be printed in a slightly smaller font to fit them in the back of my book.
When I started this blog, nearly two years ago, I was working on The Honours, trying to make it good enough to submit. Last night, I got to sign copies at my launch. We sold out! Oh goodness, it was like one of the nicest nights, one of those things you fantasise about when your writing’s hard, to get you through it.
This morning I woke up to find that The Honours has been made Amazon’s Debut Of The Month. Cripes! This evening we’ve got a lovely launch in Norwich, with cake and wine.
But look, although it’s my name on the cover, so many people contributed to the process, adding their skill, their talent, their imagination, pointing out where I’d let the quality slip (this is a polite way of saying ‘fucked up’), making great suggestions on how to improve the world I was creating – sometimes just listening to me moan about how hard I was finding it, and reassuring me it’d be okay.
In particular my agent Sophie Lambert and my editor Jo Dingley had really strong hands in what the novel turned out to be. They put a lot of time and expertise into teasing out the strongest parts, and suggesting scenes the reader would want to see. I’m really really grateful for their help and brilliant ideas.
I also had a fantastic team of beta readers and dear friends who offered feedback and ideas – I’ve named them all in the Acknowledgements section of the book. Without their support, I really don’t think the manuscript would have been picked up in the first place. They helped me get it as good as it could be before submitting.
We’re presented with stories as if they arrived with the author fully-formed, but actually the process – for me at least – is much more of a negotiation. It’s a bit like echolocation. There’s this story, hiding in the darkness, and you fire off a click – wait for the bounceback – then you move, fire off another – wait again to see how the sound’s changed – and so on and so on, slowly building an image in your head of this strange ancient shape hidden from you, out there.
Writing really is rewriting. And rewriting requires help. Maybe you write for yourself, but the act of writing, really, is for other human beings. So it follows you need other human beings to help you through the process of making it not shit.
I spent maybe twice as long editing The Honours as I did writing the initial draft. The first person I gave feedback for on this very blog sent me an email thanking me, and offering feedback on my first page. He made some great points, and the changes he suggested made it into the final edit. So look – I do practise what I preach, mostly.
I wish you all the best with your writing. It’s a tough craft – at least, I find it tough – but you don’t need to go it alone. I’m still taking submissions for the blog, and I intend to keep going for as long as people keep reading it. Probably longer. I have some ideas for exciting ways we could develop the format – maybe some opportunities for more in-depth critiques of longer sections over multiple weeks – and I’m always interested to hear your ideas and suggestions. You can email me via the ‘Contact Me’ link on the right.
So yes. Good luck fellow authors. If you need help, I’m here to do what I can (within reason – don’t send me 250,000 words with the email subject line ‘FIX THIS’).
Right. Time to enjoy my launch day.