This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
The first piece I ever wrote for public consumption was when I was fourteen – a report to be read out at school assembly. I’d put a couple of jokes in, and when I nervously read it, the other kids actually laughed.
And while this may partly have been because my flies were undone, hearing that kind of response to something I’d written was addictive. There and then, I decided I was going to be a comedy writer.
Trouble was, it took me twenty years to do anything about it, and it wasn’t until I decided to take a sabbatical (or to put it another way, was sacked) from my job as a head-hunter I decided the time was right to, er, write.
The traditional route I’d planned to take – the struggling writer bashing away on an old typewriter in a draughty garret – wasn’t quite the way it turned out, particularly when a friend offered me the loan of his villa in Spain for three months – the only thing I suffered for my art was sunburn.
Once the novel was finished, I sent it off to a few agents. After a thousand or so rejections, I convinced one I was worth a shot, and after incorporating some of his editorial suggestions (i.e. rewriting the whole thing), we had a bite: a publisher wanted to meet.
In a state of nervous excitement, I ironed my cravat, practised my air-kissing, and headed off to London to see them. They praised my book, and seemed to like me, and of course I loved them. They promised to make a decision the following day.
The next morning saw me wandering nervously round Selfridges, glancing at my phone every thirty seconds to check I hadn’t missed the call. And I was just gazing at the shelf in the book department where my novel would hopefully go when my mobile finally rang. “It's a yes,” said my agent.
I couldn't believe it. The thing I’d dreamed about since the age of fourteen was actually going to happen, and soon my first novel, Best Man, would be fighting for space on the 3-for-2 table.
He outlined their offer, though I’d have accepted even if they’d asked for one of my vital organs in return. “I’m having lunch with an editor from Granta, and Pierre,” he continued. “Why don’t you come for a celebratory drink?”
An editor from Granta – the most famous literary magazine in the world! And Pierre? Surely not DBC Pierre, another of my agent’s clients, who had literally – in both senses of the word – just won the Booker Prize? Was this how my life was going to be now – an endless whirl of lunches with the literati?
I mutely nodded my agreement – a pretty pointless gesture down a phone line – checked my flies were done up, then ran out of the store, flagged down a cab, and headed off to join them.