The past few months have been quite exciting. First of all, after years of delays, I was finally able to get fibre broadband! Hurrah! I went from 3.5mb up to 38mb! Sweet. Oh, and I also signed with an agent.
I have been, in some manner or another, “doing writing” for fourteen years, which is how long it has been since I left school. I wrote all the time at school, but I don’t consider that the same thing as most of it would have been for English. Although to be fair it was a lot more English than most, since I took part in just about everything you could do writing wise – public speaking, debating, story writing competitions. In my final year I was the only person in my Sixth Year studies English class (which made winning the English prize at prize-giving that year somewhat of a given). I didn’t study English at University though, a decision that I’ve always questioned. I studied computing instead and, following the advice of my sixth year English teacher (the best teacher I have ever had by the way), resolved to write in my spare time. And so I did.
Fourteen years is a long time to do something and not know if you’re wasting your time or not. Around about the time I started University, I signed up to a writing forum on the internet (I forget it’s name, be interesting if it’s still around). I only recall starting one thread on there. One question. Do writers know that what they are writing is good? The answers I got attempted to answer the question, but didn’t. Not really. Most advice offered was just to keep writing, get a first draft down and then edit it afterwards, which is fair enough advice, but it doesn’t answer the question. When I looked at my own writing, I genuinely had no idea if it was good or bad. This seemed like something of a problem.
It’s a question that’s stayed with me. I’ve worked on five books over the years, three of which I’ve completed. After I completed the fifth, I had my answer. You do. Sort of. I knew it was the best thing I had ever written. It was the book I wanted it to be.
Still… How do you really know?
It was a little strange getting an agent. In a good way obviously, but it was odd to have someone telling you that they enjoyed your work and wanted to represent you. Suddenly, you know you haven’t been wasting your time all these years. It’s a relief. It’s something you always wanted to happen, but part of you thought probably wouldn’t.
But saying that, it wasn’t a complete surprise. I knew that what I had written was good. And I only knew that because I had written stuff that was bad. It might sound obvious but you have to be able to distinguish bad writing from good writing. I genuinely don’t think I could when I left school. I certainly don’t remember ever reading a book that I hated until much later in life (with the possible exception of anything by Enid Blyton) . I couldn’t tell whether my own writing was good or bad because I couldn’t tell whether any writing was good or bad.
Moral of the story: If you’re going to do writing, you have to do reading too.