When I see that an author is about to have their book published, I sometimes look at their background, and very often, I find that they are a journalist, or a minor/major celebrity, maybe they have worked in publishing for a while, or they have a huge social media following on Twit-insta-book. I don’t have any such background. And I suspect a lot of would-be authors are like me: keen writers but nothing more. If you fit into this latter category, then I am proof you can still get your novel published.
In my professional life, I have been an IT consultant for many years, working solely with charities and not-for-profit organisations. As part of that, I have done quite a lot of blogging (http://blog.itforcharities.co.uk if you really want to know about CRM systems and database processes…), and I have written many ‘business reports’ and multiple documents for the projects I’ve worked on. They all require clear comprehension and may be read by executives with little time on their hands. And I did self-publish two books with the extremely catchy titles “101 [and subsequently, 102…] Tips on How to Buy Fundraising Software and Charity CRM Systems”. (I still can’t quite believe Random House didn’t want to publish them.)
I have tried to write short stories and novels since my twenties (and I am now, er, a few years older than that), so I hope I have honed my writing to a better level than it was then. I did come runner-up in one of Writing Magazine’s monthly short-story competitions in the last century. I did get a very personal and encouraging rejection letter from an agent twenty years ago when I sent him the first three chapters of a novel I had written. And I was even offered a book contract many years ago when I lived in Singapore, for a compilation of short stories I had written, but the publisher’s contract wanted eternal rights to my soul – worldwide – and my first-born child, so I turned that down.
I have attended two creative writing courses in my life (some people might say that shows in my writing…): one of those was for script writing and the other was a day course. I have been a member of the London Writers Club (LWC) for several years, who help writers learn what agents are looking for and how to approach them, and that was very useful to get a fundamental understanding, and I enjoyed their events. (Although I did take a break in the middle of attending the LWC evenings when I realised I was going to those functions but not doing any writing…)
But mostly, I just wrote lots and lots. Sometimes I shared my attempts with friends and family, and received mixed feedback, enough to keep me keen and feel I might have a modicum of writing ability. And I have written many Chapter Ones of novels, and then stopped and gone onto something else… I thought I was alone in doing that until I overheard someone else say the same thing at an LWC event. That realisation made me sit down one day and select one of my ideas with the intention of seeing it through to the end: The Kosher Delhi.
So although, as I read back all the above, I realise I have done a lot of writing over the years, most of it was unstructured and without any industry insight; and, as I said at the start of this post, I have no formal writing background. But eventually, someone believed in me.