It took me far too long to realise being a writer was what I’ve always wanted to do. And it was in front of my eyes the whole time. The stories I created in my head, wishing with all I had that they could be real, and I still didn’t realise that writing fiction was my dream. While I have mixed feelings about 2020s writing success—and even after I’ve posted this blog post, I’ll likely change my mind again—I feel I did as much as I could. And, most of all, I’m happy I didn’t push the book I’d written last November for querying.
I know. I said it.
This makes me sound like an awful writer, doesn’t it? But, let me explain.
I’ve written novel-length stories previously to the one born in 2019. I’ve written them time and time again, actually. But, this one was unlike anything I had ever written. Until I stepped back from it, I didn’t really see why that was a bad thing—because this bookwasn’t me.
Which, looking at it from the outside, doesn’t sound all that bad, but I know it is. That book, with its magic and witches, will never be something I’ll write again. It was too hard at the time, and on top of that, I desperately wanted too much from it to incorporate all the skill I had. And it did not work. It was like crafting a chair that looked alright; until you got closer and noticed that it had five legs and only one arm rest. Yes, it still functioned as a chair, you could sit on it, but it wasn’t a ‘chair-chair’.
On the third, maybe fourth, lot of edits I noticed the extra leg and lack of an arm. And I won’t lie, it broke me. I had such positive feedback on the story when attending a virtual writing festival—and even met an agent who seemed thrilled by the story. And yet, I had never felt more like a fraud. That book with its fantasy and its romance was something I’d never ever be able to create again.
And, I really didn’t like the way I wrote.
Not even in the ‘Oh, tell me how good I am because my confidence is shot’ kind of way. I flat out couldn’t see my writing voice. It felt like someone else entirely had written it, and I didn’t think I could be proud of it for that reason.
Plus, I knew that I’m technically a business opportunity (or risk, depends how you look at it) for an agent. I’m could possibly be one of the handfuls they take on a year, and I need to be able to meet my end of the bargain; if I began my road as a fantasy writer, I knew I’d be letting people down. Because if they’re marketing me as one thing, and I’m actually another—it’s like saying you’re selling croissants but actually selling sausage rolls. Yeah, they’re still pastry, but they are not the same things.
The world of publishing is a daunting and nerve-wracking experience. You may be amazing, and it may take you years to get discovered and taken in by a wonderful agent. You self-publish, and you battle through the thousands that do it each day; hoping a collection of people, you wrote the book for, see it. When I write this, it actually seems a foolish thing to pursue, but, I still want to.
I’m not sure what path I’m going to go down. I’m not sure if people will ever count me as a ‘real writer’ or even if I’ll ever see myself as someone deserving of being someone’s favourite. But I know, hand on heart, I want this career. I want to write, and bring joy to people. Money, as wonderful as it is, hasn’t made me as happy as a good book. And, I want to do that for others.
Truthfully, I’m a romance writer, specifically romances featuring LGBTQ+. I want (and am) writing a story where a girl falls in love with a girl and it’s a normal late-teen romance with “do they like me” and “why haven’t they texted back”.
There’s no big song and dance about the fact they are queer or identify as LGBTQ+. Because that’s what I would have wanted to read when I was the target-books age. I wanted to read about a girl who could like boys and girls, and it not be some weird thing; I wanted to be seen as I was a teenager and a young adult, because I felt like I was a broken mess. No one else seemed conflicted, so I hid, and I don’t want anyone else to feel like that.
Even now, I love to read romance between LGBTQ+ characters that is like the movies, where their orientation is just something they are. Rather than an entire plot device (no offence to the wonderful coming-out stories, because we need them, I just love love).
So, you see why burning the old version of me and shelving the fantasy story that had been sat in my head was the right decision. I’m glad I wrote it, because I grew and changed; I realised that fantasy—while I occasionally enjoy reading it—isn’t me or my style. My words are poetic and my descriptions lengthy about feelings and the way your heart skips a beat. I don’t pay attention to the world all that much, but rather what sits in someone’s chest and the way their palms begins sweating when they’re nervous.
Every day, I decide something different for my writer dreams. As I near the end of the second book I’ve written in two years, I’m glad this is the one I’ll be making my mark on the world with. I never felt like I do with this one as I did with the others; I look forward to writing it, and the other stories that have spawned off from it. And, most of all I love these two girls so much, and am so happy I made them.
Not pursuing the last book, and the ones before it, has been the best damn decision. I’ve grown, I’ve changed, and I’m not as insecure about my work. I’m proud of this book, and as a writer. Even though I’ll always know there will be more that can be done to make it shine, I also know I’ve given it my all. I’m proud of it, myself, and my words—something I’ve struggled to feel about my work for years.
I feel different.
The reason I’m saying all of this is because I don’t think it’s said enough. I think people hide how they feel when it comes to writing, too afraid they’ll be seen a certain kind of way. I’m not ashamed that I shelved a book and likely other plots too; I’m empowered by the fact I have. I may never get a traditional publishing contract; that doesn’t mean my worth is less, it just means it’s different.
We should celebrate however a book enters the world; we should be proud of what we create. But we should also have the belief in ourselves to write to the beat of our own drum.
I know, going into 2021 that I’m on the right path. It took me some years to get here, to feel as strong as I do now with my writing. But I’m glad I’m here.
Whether your book is your first, or your fiftieth, we have to be proud of what we create first. Because we, in the early stages, are the first fan of our books; we need to scream from the rooftops about how awesome it is. And we can’t do that if we hate it.