Today I’m pleased to welcome TA Williams, author of What Happens at Christmas to the blog. He has kindly written a post about the highs and lows of being a writer.
Somebody asked me the other day what my favourite moment has been in my writing career. Looking back, there have been quite a few highs, although there have been a huge number of lows as well.
Writing is a solitary, sometimes lonely pastime. It’s you against yourself. You sit at the keyboard and hope the words will flow. When it goes well, it gives you a real buzz. When you sit there for hours with very little to show for it, or when you read the two or three thousand words you wrote the previous day and realise they are rubbish, the result is depressing, to say the least. So… wannabe authors out there, prepare for setbacks because they will happen.
So, with that caveat in mind, what about the highs?
Writing The End on the final page of my very first full length novel was pretty special. Nowadays, looking back over more than ten completed books, the sheer physical achievement of churning out 80,000 words is no longer such a big deal. But, as they say, you never forget your first time. Of course, as I now know, The End doesn’t really mean that at all. You send the manuscript off to your editor and, before long, it comes back to you and you are going through it again, taking out character A, making character B edgier or less up himself, moving the final scene from an ocean going yacht to a beach hut in Torquay or whatever. Then off it goes again this time to the copy editor, to return with words chopped out, grammar questioned and suggestions in red ink all over the place. So, The End; great feeling but short-lived.
Don’t let anybody tell you different; the hardest thing about getting a book published is finding a publisher. All right, nowadays you can self-publish and a lot of people are opting for that solution, particularly as it gives you total control over subject, style and, of course, price. But if you are trying to go down the traditional publisher route, firms taking on new, unknown writers are as rare as hen’s teeth. So, without doubt, a great, great moment for me was getting the email from my publishers telling me they had read my first book, Dirty Minds, and loved it enough to want to publish it. I rushed through to the bathroom where my wife was taking a shower and almost soaked the iPad in my excitement. Yes, that was something else.
In contrast, when my first book came out, then my second, and so on, I was less excited. Maybe because my books are currently all ebooks, there was less of a sense of achievement than I had expected. Yes, it was good to see the cover appear on Amazon. Yes it was good to see the book begin to rise through the rankings as people, not just my close friends and family, started shelling out real money to read my stuff. But it wasn’t as uplifting as that first email, specially after (in my case) many long years of beating my head against a brick wall trying to get people to read my stuff.
And that brings us to reviews. You buy a toilet brush on Amazon. It works, You post a good, very good, or excellent review. You buy a book on Amazon and suddenly it’s a very different matter. A toilet brush is a toilet brush however you look at it. No two books are the same and no two readers are the same. When somebody leaves a bad review, it hurts. I have no doubt that even for the million-sellers in the writing world, it hurts. Yes, it’s inevitable…you can’t please all of the people all of the time… but that doesn’t help. All those long hours at the computer make your book a very, very personal thing. Just as any mother would be gutted if a total stranger came up and observed, ‘What a disgustingly ugly baby you have,’ so the effect of vicious criticism can be the same for a writer.
Which makes the good reviews so very, very special. When I read reviews, specially from people I know and respect, praising my work, it gives me a high that lasts all day. So, after all that, I have no hesitation in saying that the very best moments for me in my writing career so far have been those 5 star reviews that make you just sit back and grin to yourself. That’s really special.
About the book:
“For the perfect Christmas…
When career-girl Holly Brice learns that her estranged father has died, she decides to take a trip down memory lane and find out about the man she never knew. Arriving in the sleepy little Dartmoor village, she’s shocked to discover that she’s inherited the cosy little cottage she remembers so fondly, a whole load of money –and her father’s adorable dog, too!
Head to snow-covered Devon!
And as the first snowflakes begin to fall and Holly bumps into her gorgeous neighbour, Jack Nelson, life gets even more complicated! Men have always been off the cards for high-flying Holly, but there’s something about mysterious writer Jack that has her re-thinking her three-date rule…
A fabulous, feel-good festive read, perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Carole Matthews.”
And here’s an excerpt:
It was a stunning day – crisp, clear and with just a light offshore breeze. The sea first came into view in the distance beyond the broad expanse of sand dunes and beach that constituted Saunton Sands. The road then curled gently round the coast, offering magnificent views across the open cliff tops to the rocks and waves below. Visibility was so good, Jack was able to point out Lundy Island, lying twelve miles out in the Bristol Channel. Beyond that there was nothing until you reached southern Ireland and, from then on just the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the USA.
The sea looked like a sheet of corrugated iron as it neared the shore, with row after row of waves rolling in. They came into the village of Croyde itself and Holly started seeing signs for surf schools, surf shops and even a campsite called Surfers’ Paradise. Malibu it might not be, but Croyde was clearly a British surfing Mecca, even on a day like today when the outside temperature was in single figures. As they drove down the narrow access road to the car park, they could both see majestic waves rolling into the bay between the rocky outcrops either side. Jack parked at the far side of the car park among a vast collection of old VW campers, clearly the vehicle of choice for the surfing community, and turned off the engine. The engine noise was immediately replaced by the raucous cries of seagulls and the regular crunch of waves hitting the beach a hundred yards below them. From where they were parked, they were able to look down between sand dunes and a café directly onto the beach.
‘Look at those waves! Magic Seaweed said it would be a five star day and, boy, were they right!’ He sounded like a little boy on his birthday.
‘Magic Seaweed?’ She smiled at him, happy to see his obvious excitement.
‘The fount of all wisdom for surf dudes.’
‘So you’re a surf dude?’
‘I suppose I should really have a VW camper for true street cred, but the old Land Rover’s pretty close. And, of course, that’s an Al Merrick custom board tied to my roof. That’s worth loads of bonus points.’ He grinned at her. ‘Yeah, I’m a dude, or at least I like to think I am.’
‘This is the first time I’ve been with a dude. In fact, I’m not totally sure I know what a dude is, but so far so good.’ She gave him a smile. ‘So, if you’re a dude, what does that make me?’
He had no hesitation. ‘That makes you a babe.’ He grinned at her. ‘No question. Very definitely a babe.’
Holly rather liked the sound of that, but she didn’t comment. Scruffy Land Rovers and outdoor pursuits hadn’t featured too highly on her list of essentials for possible boyfriends so far. Anyway, she thought to herself, one pretty normal prerequisite was that the man in question should at least appear to demonstrate some sort of romantic interest towards her. Jack Nelson, nice and friendly as he was, appeared to show as much affection towards her as he did to Stirling the dog. She dismissed the thought and glanced back down to the beach, absently reaching back over her shoulder to scratch Stirling’s ears.
What Happens at Christmas was published on 22 October 2015 by Carina.
And there’s more. You can win a copy of TA Williams’ What Happens in Cornwall via this rafflecopter competition. Good luck!