This post is inspired by a conversation I was having with a fellow author yesterday. Like me, she is a journalist, and is in the process of finishing her first draft. We were discussing how being a journalist can help/hinder a budding author, and I thought it interesting enough to share.
Being a journalist means I know what makes a good story. I know I need to hook readers in, keep up the pace and intrigue, and have an ending as memorable as a good kiss under the mistletoe. I enjoy researching in order to make the book realistic, and thinking lateral comes relatively easily to me.
Above all, I know I can write well – after all, I’ve been earning money doing this for the last twenty-odd years. So there is a level of confidence.
Having spent all day writing features for newspapers and magazines, sometimes the last thing I want to do is write my book. Even though I am desperate to write my book!
I have confidence when it comes to creating articles, but novels are another matter. I’m a seething mass of insecurity, convinced what I’m doing is rubbish, illuminated by the briefest sparks of “ooh, that’s not bad!” It’s those sparks that push me on.
As an experienced journalist, I was used to producing a finished piece of work that didn’t need much polishing, just a quick check over, a couple of changes, and send it off, safe in the knowledge it was spot on. Creating the first draft of my first novel, Invisible, was particular agony because I was aware of what a mess it was, and how much work there would be to get it into any kind of shape. I had visions of ‘proper’ authors being able to write near-perfect novels, first time, just like writing a feature.
And everything took so long! I was used to quick turnarounds, tight deadlines, getting something done then moving on immediately. Not so with being an author. It’s a long, hard slog or writing, re-writing, editing, re-editing…
It took me a while to accept that novel writing, though utilising many of the same talents, is a very different skill to being a journalist. I think that’s why, even after Invisible came out and became a Top Ten Amazon UK murder bestseller, I continued to call myself a journalist when people asked what I did.
Then came Flowers For The Dead. That was almost as hard, but at least this time I was prepared for the tough marathon ahead. And somewhere along the line, an imperceptible change must have occurred in my psyche, because the other day someone asked me what I did.
“I’m a writer,’ I replied without hesitation.
Being a journalist has helped me get this far on my journey. But now I feel as if I have finally started to become a novelist.
- Can YOU spot today’s Christmas-related reference in this blog? If you can, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org to enter my competition – and YOU could have a character named after you in my next novel!
MORE WAYS TO WIN! Three lucky people will have characters named after them in my next novel. They might be a baddie, or a nosy neighbour, they might even be bumped off, who can say, but they could have YOUR name.
To be in with a chance of winning this unique prize, all you have to do is take part in my Christmas countdown search. Every day for a fortnight I’ll be hiding a Christmas-related reference in a post on this blog, or somewhere over on my website www.barbaracopperthwaite.com All you have to do to enter is email me that days’s reference (e.g., I might randomly mention seeing ‘three wise men’) at email@example.com
You can enter as many times as you like. The more days you take part, the more entries you’ll accrue – so the greater your chance of winning!
I’m also running similar competitions across Twitter (you can follow me @BCopperthwait) and my Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/Author BarbaraCopperthwaite) and you’re free to enter those as many times as you like, too.
Over on Facebook, every day for a fortnight I’ll be posting a fun, easy question based either on Christmas, me, or my books. Just ‘like’ the post and leave your (correct!) answer in the comments section, and you’ll be entered into the prize draw.
Over at Twitter, you simply have to retweet me using the hashtag #FlowersForTheDead. Each retweet is an entry and, again, you can enter as often as you want.
Good luck to everyone!
* The winner will be announced on Christmas Eve