We were a cosy audience of fifteen (predominantly women, listening to a couple of more successful men, draw your own conclusions). Right at the start, we took turns telling the rest of the group who we were, our writing ambitions and how far along the process we were. As someone who has actually completed a manuscript and received form rejection letters, I found myself 'ahead' of those participants who were tentatively thinking about giving the writing thing a shot, but behind those who'd had 'near miss' type rejections or who were published in other genres (Mills & Boon, journalism).
The speakers were Sarwat Chadda and Steve Feasey. I'd read neither of them, and to be honest their work doesn't appeal all that much (Young Adult dark fantasy, which I don't really like despite, er, currently being engaged in writing one), but they made an excellent double act because they disagreed with each other on almost all aspects of writing method:
- You should set a word count and aim at 500 words a day, or a thousand, or whatever.
- No, because you might write a hundred really good words or you might write three thousand words that are shite.
- I send the first draft round my friends as soon as the ink's dry.
- NO NO NO I don't even let my wife read it until it's ready to go off to the publisher.
- I plot everything really tightly.
- I start typing and see what happens!
Where they agreed, however, was on the necessity of writing every day, treating your writing as a job, not a hobby, because there are professionals out there and if you're to stand a chance against them you need to be doing what they're doing.
Oh, and enjoy it.
I was pleased to note that I am succeeding, most of the time, on both counts. (I don't think you can enjoy anything that counts as work absolutely all the time.)
One truly excellent piece of advice was to follow literary agents on Twitter. Then, if one of them should tweet 'What I really, really need right now is a book about dogs flying planes', and if you should happen to have a completed manuscript on that very subject, you're in luck!
BRB. Off to stalk some agents.