We meet so many customers who dream of getting a book published one day. Sophie Duffy is a writer who lives in Teignmouth, Devon. She has had two (fantastic) books published in the last couple of years. For her, it all started when she took an evening class in creative writing after having children.
So you want to be a writer? Well, let me just say, it’s the best of jobs and the worst of jobs. Well, not completely the worst – it’s not like you have to go down any mines or endure arm-to-arm combat – but it is one that requires tenacity and a very thick skin. You have good days and bad days and days that you wonder why on earth you are doing this, but once you embark on your writing journey, it is impossible to retrace your steps.
Once a writer, always a writer. You will look at the world differently. You will have more empathy for your fellow human beings. You will notice words and the beauty and rhythms of language. You will read differently. You will yearn for some time and space for your writing. Time will be even more precious than before. You will have to get used to rejections (lots of them). You will have to get used to criticism and weed the useful from the distinctly unhelpful. You will learn to find ways to answer the same old questions graciously: ‘Is this really fiction?’ ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ ‘Do you earn loads of money?’
Mmm, yes, money. There won’t be loads of it. Maybe a trickle here and there if you are lucky.
You will have to be disciplined as you work home alone. ‘No, I can’t look after your toddler this afternoon, I am working.’ ‘No, I can’t meet you for a cuppa this morning, I am working.’ ‘No, I cant pick up that package from the post office today, I AM WORKING.’
But don’t let any of this put you off if you have a desire to write stories. It’s all worthwhile when you hear from someone you’ve never met that they loved your book.
So how did I start? It was back in 2001. We’d just moved from London to Worthing with our three kids, aged 2, 4 and 5. I didn’t know anyone and my brain was going to mush so I decided to do an evening class. I chose creative writing partly because I had done an English degree but mainly because it was on an evening when my husband was around to babysit. After the first lesson, I was hooked. I had a fantastic tutor and made some great friends. I went on to do an MA in Creative Writing by distance learning at Lancaster University.
In 2005, having completed two unpublishable novels, we moved to Devon. I joined Exeter Writers and began writing The Generation Game. Always one for competitions, I entered the opening chapters into the Yeovil Literary Prize in 2006 and it won. This gave me the confidence to carry on, especially after being approached and signed by an agent. Unfortunately, once finished, the agent didn’t sell it.
So I began on another novel, This Holey Life. I entered the opening chapters of this into The Harry Bowling Prize in 2008. Although it was runner-up, my agent didn’t like it. So should I start another novel or go it alone?
I left my agent. In 2010, after a year of wondering if I’d ever make it, I saw an advert for the Luke Bitmead Award for new novelists and entered The Generation Game. To my delight it won and I received a bursary and a publishing contract. The Generation Game was published in August 2011 by Legend Press. A year on This Holey Life has been published, also by Legend.
It’s been a long journey but I’m glad I carried on. The good thing about writing when the kids were small was that I learnt to write in small bursts, to make the most of every opportunity and to treasure those times when I could write stories. And now, at last, people are reading them.
And finally. My novels are fiction but I do write what I know and so I write about family life. The Generation Game explores what family means – it’s not necessarily your blood relatives but the people who bring you up and love you that count.
This Holey Life is the story of Vicky, a reluctant curate’s wife, struggling to come to terms with a bereavement and her husband’s new-found faith. When her older brother comes to stay, her world is turned upside down as childhood roles are replayed between brother and sister.
Eleven years on from that first evening class, my kids are 13, 16 and 17 – so look out for teenage angst in the next novel. Now I just have to write it…
Writing can be isolating so think about joining a group
Maybe do a class
Enter competitions – get your work out there!