Happy Anniversary to Me!
On Sunday it was the 5th aniversary of the publication of my novel, The Art of Letting Go, by Thistle Publishing.
The publication turned out to be in the same year I had my first child. I followed this with another child the following year… but not with any more novels. And, finally, from a perspective of time, I am so glad this has been the case.
The Art of Letting Go was not taken up by a major publishing house. It had some good feedback from them but it was too “quiet” to get noticed. Thistle Publishing took it on however, and it ended up doing better than I’d hoped. Not a multi-million-seller, but it has sold over 15,000 copies, has an average review rate of more than 4 stars on Amazon and was, briefly, even a bestseller in its genre categories. I’m pretty pleased with that! (My favourite achievement was that in February 2016 it was one of the Top 10 most-read books on Kindle!)
When it was published I felt the twin pressures of getting another novel out there while wanting to be committed to the path I’d chosen of being a stay-at-home mum (I HATE that expression but it’s handy shorthand!). Over the next few years I tried writing a couple of different novels without success. I even spent nearly three years writing two complete drafts of a novel which I then decided to abandon.
My problem was that my goal had become “write another novel”. I didn’t have a story I was burning to tell, I was just sure that I needed something else out - and quickly. I thought I understood about the process of plotting and writing a novel, but academic understanding of process is not the same thing as being a novelist.
I wasn’t ready to write a novel.
When I look back at The Art of Letting Go, I am proud of what it is, but also so aware of its flaws and rough edges. I had no idea how to write a novel - I just went and told the story I was trying to tell. It took me about eight drafts to publication and even now I flinch a little bit at some of clumsier passages, the weaker characterisations and the lazier storytelling. I’m proud of it, but I’m so glad that the writer I was when I wrote that, didn’t go on to have another one of similar calibre published.
Over the past five years I have learned a lot through my failed novel attempts and more successful flash fiction. And I hope every five years for the rest of my life I will be able to look back and be satisfied that I have become a better, more confident writer.
In a few weeks my youngest son starts school. I am looking forward to having a little more time to work on my current project - a novella this time, rather than a novel. I am enjoying writing it for so many reasons - most of all because it is a book I absolutely could not have written five years ago. It’s a book that I really want to write for the sake of it. I am a different (hopefully better!) writer now and I can’t wait to see where I will be in another five years!