Last week I signed a contract with Colin Tate at Clarion Publishing to publish my near-future SF novel. After jumping around the room, doing the happy dance, and wagging my finger at the universe in that ‘I told you so’ way, we stayed up too late and drank some champagne. Happy days!
I realised I’d learned some important lessons. The excellent and talented Mike Carey* once was guest speaker at our writing group. Somebody asked him when he realised he’d made it as a writer, and he replied there never was that exact moment, instead, a series of cumulative steps, one after the other.
Writing groups. Mine is the T Party, now one of the most successful genre writing groups in the UK (always open for members, by the way), with current members and alumni including Gaie Sebold, Tom Pollock, Aliette de Bodard, KD Grace, Francis Knight, and Will Mitchell. With serious critiques, friendship, and endless mutual support, I don’t think I’d be where I am now without them. The honest critiques helped, the after-meeting conversations and weekends and weeks away created good times, grand memories, and some fantastic story ideas. Sometimes I needed to be told to try harder, sometimes I needed that group support, and wise advice. ‘Correction does much, but encouragement does more.’
And perseverance. I learned to stick with it, roll with the punches and enjoy the good times. Hone your craft, work your ideas. Actually do try harder. And take delight in your friends successes. Go to Cons and workshops. Mingle. Just be there, and chat, meet people, and ask questions (such as ‘Would you like to come talk to our writing group?’) You’ll encounter a few who think you’re not worth talking to, that’s fine, move on. Meet the rest.
Of course you have to be ready to make good use of those opportunities. I did that bit by all by myself, with help and encouragement. Looking back, I can now see that series of incremental steps taken. I’m looking forward with wonder and excitement to what comes next.
*Hellblazer, Felix Castor, The Unwritten. If you’ve not read The Steel Seraglio, written in collaboration with Linda and Loise Carey, then you’re denying yourself one of the most original, poetic and moving of recent fantasy novels.