Writing a book has never been easier, but writing something that is publishable or indeed worth self-publishing is harder than it has ever been. Dominic Stevenson looks at the writing and editorial process.
When time and books began, access to education was limited, and this meant that a lucky few told the stories and made the history. The rest told stories around fires and passed them on from parent to child. These stories may have been ghoulish and garish and riddled with superstition and reverie but they would have been pure stories told to entertain, amuse, share knowledge and to warn.
While this approach undoubtedly bore some classics of literature, the exclusivity was never going to last forever when it came to an art form like writing.
Today, luckily, the vast majority of people have access to an education system which enables them to learn how to read and write. This does mean that the competition is huge.
Everyone has access to the same resources and how-to guides have never been more prolifically written. And with the amount of people out there writing, it’s harder to get yourself noticed as publishers and agents desks pile up with manuscripts.
This is why now you need to worker harder, be more prepared and sacrifice even more to have your voice listened to rather than just heard.
When I first started writing what has become my first collection, I thought that I’d just get some poems down on paper, tweak them a little, and that would be it – I’d be ready to go and send it to every publisher in the land.
I wrote some poems.
I sent a couple to a poet I admired and asked for their advice.
They offered to edit some of my work.
I cheekily sent them seventy-odd poems.
They edited them and sent me back the first draft.
Seeing your first draft edited is a horrific experience that makes you doubt everything you’ve ever done. But then as you read through you changes, you begin to accept or discard and, you see your vision taking shape.
Repeat this process several times and you become convinced that you’re a comma and a full stop away from your front door being smashed down by people waving huge pre-written royalty cheques.
My editor told me very early on to ‘trust in the process’ and that by doing so we’d achieve something.
But still, the ill-disciplined of us lie in bed at night and dream of sending off our manuscript and receiving a positive response.
You become consumed by the image of being stood in a bar and saying to a stranger “I’m a poet…” and them believing you. Firstly, they never believe you and secondly, this means you’ve forgotten the process.
The process leaves you exposed, dangerously so, to self-doubt – but that is where a good editor really earns their salt. You’ve got to trust in the person you work with because they’ll pull out the best of what you are and you will produce something that you can be proud of.
It took around six months from first sending a draft collection of seventy-odd poems to my editor and whittle it down to a finished first collection of fifty-odd poems. It’s hard to keep going at times, but you must.
To do things right is to do things hard.
The process is patience and the ability to take a little bit of advice. The process is not sitting on Twitter and talking about being a writer. It is sitting down and staring anxiously until something comes and then having the commitment to polish it.
As so many have said – you’re more likely to meet inspiration when inspiration knows when you’ll be sat at your desk.
Don’t confuse the process with having no life though. Get out, tell your stories, listen to stories and wander the streets absorbing the many facets of life that you’ll come across.
Without living you will never be the story teller you deserve to be. Those people sat around fires in caves a thousand years ago didn’t dream of contracts, royalties or sitting in a bar and being adored – but they will have spun a damn good tale refined over years until their audience couldn’t look away for a single second. And there was always a point to the stories they told – what is your point?
The world will never be too full of people trying to use words in beautiful ways to make a positive difference, or just writing to entertain, but it is already too full of people who throw words out without the commitment to the process.
If you want to find out more about me, you can on my website.