When I was a schoolgirl, long ago, I prided myself on the ability to write an essay of any length required on any subject, no matter how obscure or silly, without having to think long about it. Not for me the agony of staring at a blank page and wondering what to put on it – my subconscious would supply words, almost as easily as water spouting out of a tap. Writing stories was just as easy, and more fun.
Sounds like I should have become a writer, right? Unfortunately there were serious obstacles. Family expectations urged me towards a supposedly more secure, prestigious career. I thought I could always come back to writing later. During the first years of full-time employment I wrote on the side, mostly stories and articles. When my career led me to Manhattan for three years, I submitted some of my works to editors. Like any other aspiring writer only just learning their craft, I received rejection letters – “would like to see more of your work” was the best I could do. Meantime my job got ever more demanding, and then children came along.
But though there were years when I didn’t write fiction, except inside my head, I always kept reading. Thousands and thousands of books.
Now I have at last come to a point when I took a step back from the day job and bought two years of free time with my savings – and finally settled down to write. Is it any wonder that all those repressed works now come shooting out at surprising speed? It turns out that you can postpone creation, but if you are lucky it is still there, patiently waiting. Except that these are not exactly the same books I could or would have written decades ago; I look at my abandoned projects, for instance a thriller parodying work inside the United Nations, and I could not for the life of me finish it in the spirit in which it began. On the other hand, what I write now draws on the experiences and insights of the past decades, and hopefully has gained some depth. I’m still working hard on improving the technical aspects.
Right now I am completing a book I began in 1999 in Copenhagen, and find it is not easy to reconcile the older parts with the new. I have changed in fifteen years, and the characters I envisage today are not quite the same in consequence. While I am determined to rescue at least that favourite project from limbo, it would be easier and faster to write something completely new.
Given the time pressure, self-publishing is the obvious choice for me. Receiving feedback from unknown readers all over the world within days of publication of an Ebook gives me a thrill, and to hear that someone enjoyed my writing is great motivation to carry on. With traditional publishing, even in the best case, I would still be waiting for a release date of the first book.
Over the past few months I have concentrated on Regency Romance, and under the pen name of May Burnett have published three in June, August and September respectively. They form a series , the Amberley Chronicles, though each is self-contained. If all goes well, in the month of October two more will come out, the fourth of the series and a standalone regency, Lady Susan’s Bargain. When I have ten regencies under my belt, I may turn back to urban fantasy or YA, just as much fun to write but harder to sell. How long will I be able to keep up the pace of one short novel every month? Maybe with enough practice I can do even better…
The lesson, if any? Take your pick: It’s never too late to make childhood dreams come true. When you have a gift, it should be used. If you wait long enough, the technology that will make your goals easier to achieve may come along.
Or simply, go and write NOW. Who knows if it will still be possible tomorrow.