This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
I’ve written stories ever since I can remember. The first thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up was an author. The second was to work at a magazine. Eventually, I came up with a plan: I’d work for a magazine until I had kids and then I’d be an author. Easy.
Not so easy? Well, bizarrely, it kind of was.
I got distracted with other ideas for work when I was a teenager, but after university and a year out, I came back to my original plan. I arranged to do a week’s work experience at a small film magazine, extending my stay to two weeks by begging to clean out their video cupboard. After a month’s work in total, I asked the editor to please think of me if he every heard of anything. He did, and not quite two months later I was working as an editorial assistant at teenage celebrity magazine Big! A year and a half later, I moved onto heat magazine as reviews assistant, and soon afterwards was promoted to reviews editor. I couldn’t believe my luck, but looking back, I worked hard and was enthusiastic, and that paid off.
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At heat, part of my role was to decide on which books we reviewed and featured in the heat Top 10 chart. I met a lot of publicists, and two became friends. One of those was Nigel Stoneman, who worked for Simon & Schuster at the time.
During the years I worked at heat, I started to feel jaded about the idea of ever writing a book. I had an idea for a story, but I couldn’t see how I could possibly stretch it out to 100k words. I was terrified about failure, and I knew it would be my biggest regret if I never wrote it.So I started writing, and over the course of three months, I wrote about one and a half pages. Yes, you read that right. I was too scared to write any more.
One day over lunch, Nigel told me I should write a book. At the time, heat was the most successful magazine in the industry, so I was fortunate enough to have a head-start in terms of already being in the publishing industry. I came clean about the idea I had, about a girl on a 24-hour flight to Australia, who receives a text message just before take-off from someone claiming to have slept with her boyfriend. Half set in Sydney and half in London, she spends the rest of the book feeling torn between two men: a lawyer and a surfer who couldn’t be more different.
To my absolute joy and amazement, Nigel loved the idea, and five minutes after I got back to the office, I received an email from him. With my heart in my throat, I read that S&S’s publishing director, Suzanne Baboneau, loved the idea, too. Suzanne’s email came through moments later and we arranged to meet a week later. It was the beginning of one of the happiest times of my life.
That weekend, I wrote a 5000-word synopsis, my brother came up with the title Lucy in the Sky, I changed the heroine’s name to Lucy and wrote the first three chapters. Two days after my meeting with Suzanne, I had a two-book deal on the table.
Upon Nigel’s suggestion, I asked if I could deliver the book by Christmas (it was the middle of September) and publish the following spring. Suzanne hesitated because they normally work to much longer deadlines, but she agreed. All I had to do now was write the book.
I ended up delivering early, even though I had a full-time job, but lunchtimes, evenings, weekends, all I wanted to do was write. As for worrying about filling out that word count, it was incredible how the characters took on lives of their own – the book practically wrote itself.
The momentum carried through from book deal to publication, and Lucy in the Sky is still my biggest bestseller.
Two weeks after delivering the book, I fell pregnant. I often wonder if I would have ever written it if things hadn’t worked out the way they did. I would like to think that I would have had the courage eventually, but who knows. I was very, very lucky, and I have never forgotten that. As for the people who write entire books without the certainty of a publishing deal, I have the utmost respect for them.
Paige's latest novel, Thirteen Weddings, is out now.