This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
It’s no use me telling you the one thing I wish I could make you see because I know you won’t do it for a long time to come. However, I’ll try:
Write that novel now.
I think I know now what held you back. You’d always had your head in a book, holding imaginary conversations with people. You’d always loved to write, but everything you ever wrote was non-fiction or satirical.
Were you afraid of revealing too much about yourself? Did you suspect that writing a novel would be so difficult to achieve that you just couldn’t face the effort and inevitable disappointment? Were you afraid of failing?
When you went to Oxford, you knew you could never ever write a book because everyone who did was a genius like Jane Austen, had a tragic life to inspire them and died young. Of course, everyone there would have laughed at the sort of book you might have written: funny, sexy and escapist. (Tip from me: they didn’t laugh, they were thrilled for you.)
So you became a copywriter and a journalist. You wrote about supermarket cheese, housing developments and widgets. You interviewed interesting people and wrote about your travels and perhaps that’s where it started: the desire to write about the places you’ve been and the people you’d met, and more important, how they made you feel.
I wish you hadn’t waited so long after that, I wish that the catalyst had come sooner – maybe five or ten years earlier but it didn’t. It happened one night in 2004 in the most bizarre way. You watched a TV drama called North & South, you fell for its hero, John Thornton and you wanted to write about him. So you did and you cringed at your efforts and your daughter had to show you some basic writing techniques she’d been learning at school. I think they’re called Show Not Tell, dear.
You started off, thinking you knew a bit about literature but knowing nothing about the craft of writing. You plucked up courage to share your work anonymously with a small supportive group of people on the Internet and that’s when the spark turned into a flame.
You’d become a writer.
It would have been better if you hadn’t been quite so obsessed and evangelical at the start. I wish you hadn’t thought you had to get your first book published or die. Perhaps, that naivety motivated you to spend every spare hour –and many that you shouldn’t have spared – learning and writing.
I wish you’d known how successful that first book would be and relaxed as little. I wish you’d known that writing is a marathon not a sprint and that you have to keep going despite all the slings and arrows and outrageous fortune of this career.
At times, part of me has wished you never started writing at all but… if you hadn’t been so crazy in love with writing fiction; would you have done so many exciting things or met such inspirational people?
Dear Phillipa, I’m glad you recognised the moment, even if it was – almost – too late.