I have been following T R Richmond, author of What She Left on Twitter since somebody recommended I download his book. As soon as I started reading about Alice Salmon I was engrossed. So when he agreed to write a post for #WriteThinking I was thrilled. I was even more thrilled when it landed in my inbox…
People have got writers all wrong.
There’s a misconception that they’re all social misfits and drunks, that they’re unreasonable, unstable, rarely leave the house and exist exclusively on a diet of tinned peaches. There’s a widespread belief that they’re clinically incapable of meeting deadlines, that they don’t return phone calls and don’t reply to emails.
It was quite a shock to discover nothing could be further from the truth. When I got into this profession (and I used the word ‘profession’ deliberately) I found writers to be among the most normal, decent and professional people I’d ever met.
Sure, there are a few exceptions and, as in all avenues of life, generally the more successful you get, the more of a dick you can become, but for most mere mortals, that’s simply not the case.
One of the best bits of advice I was ever given was ‘never forget that writing is a job’. Yes, it might be an incredible one, but it’s still a job. I was told to always act professionally, because no one in publishing wants to work with unreliable people. No one wants to work with amateurs or mavericks.
There was another shock waiting for me when I got into this business (I also use the word ‘business’ advisedly). I always imagined authors to be loners, operating out on a limb, but it’s all an incredibly collaborative process and there’s an amazing sense of shared endeavour. I guess this isn’t surprising – people write because they love books, which is precisely the same reason that people work in publishing.
This sense of partnership is strongest between authors, publishers and agents – but it extends beyond this. We’re part of a mutually interdependent community, which includes reviewers, bloggers and retailers.
It’s also such a friendly community. Yes, writers can be a competitive bunch, but the saying that ‘there’s only one thing authors like more than seeing their friends succeed is seeing their friends fail’ is simply not true.
The reality is that there’s space for a lot of books out there. If one of my friends has a bestseller, that’s not going to adversely impact on the sales of my book. Hell no, all it means is I’ll be more able to blag a drink out of them.
Perhaps the best aspect of all of having a book make it to the shelves and of becoming part of this amazing community is that you suddenly find you have a support network. For years, I felt as if I was writing in a vacuum and it felt very lonely. Now, I’m so lucky – I have talented people who want me to succeed, who care about my work and who care about me. People who have got my back.
Anyway, I better go before I start getting sentimental. Besides, it’s tinned peaches for tea…