Have You Got the Write S Stuff for Success; William Leece Takes Advice from Leading Local Authors on What It Takes to Be the Next JK Rowling
Byline: William Leece
MANY dream of breaking out of poverty by writing a bestselling novel. JK Rowling wrote her way off the dole queue to become a multimillionaire author. But for every author who hits the jaS ckpot and comes up with a Harry Potter, there are literally millions who, in the words of one writer, make just enough to cover the telephone bill.
Yet still they do it. The urge to write, to tell a story and share it round, to bask in the approval of an audience, runs very deep. For some it can almost be an obsession.
Bev Dulson has had the writing bug as long as she can remember.
"I've always written since I was young enough to hold a pen over a piece of paper," the saleswoman from Wirral admits. "When I was about 15, I got this idea. It started off about 20 pages long, it was very amateurish... but I finished it."
Over the years she's gone back again and again to the novel, and now she's got to the point where she's ready to go into print with her novel, Betrayal, described as full of secrets, romance, lies murder and blackmail.
It's a self-publishing project, a sort of half-way house between out and out vanity publishing and being taken on by one of the mainstream publishers.
The book will be available on the internet via Amazon, and Linghams, the independent bookshop in Heswall with a long track record of supporting local authors, will be stocking copies as well.
Self-publishing can be a hard road, with the author required to be editor, literary agent, publicist and designer all in one - to say nothing of putting money up front.
But is it the right way to go for a would be author? Wallasey horror writer Ramsey Campbell was one of those who encouraged Beverley as she got going, but his general advice to someone starting out is to learn to run before you can walk.
"In broad terms I think you should start by writing short stories before you attempt a novel," he says.
"Learn your craft in a small way... don't try to write a symphony before you can write a miniature."
But every author has their own way of working, and the important thing, eventually, is to find a technique that works.
Encouragement and feedback during the writing process can be crucial. Bev has been using the Authonomy web community of writers, which lends a great deal of support from other hopefuls as they bounce incomplete work off each other. At the same time, because it is run by HarperCollins, it allows a mainstream publisher to get an idea of what is bubbling away among those hoping to make a career in print.
And a career it can be. Jane Costello started her career as a journalist on the Daily Post and other papers.
Like Bev, she had the urge to write.
"Originally I just wanted to have a novel published. But then, you become a bit more ambitious and you realise you've got a bit more potential than that.
"The first piece of advice my agent gave me was that the people who get instant bestsellers in their first novels are in an absolute tiny, tiny minority."
In other words, the chance of become the next J K Rowling overnight are pretty slim.
"You've got as much chance of winning the X Factor," she observes.
"Your should see your career over 10 years at least."
The important thing everyone agrees on is the need to keep on writing even when inspiration seems a long way away and it becomes a slog simply getting words down on the page or computer screen.
"Find a time to write, every day, don't take days off under any circumstances," says Ramsey Campbell. "Christmas day, your birthday, still do it. I think that's absolutely crucial. it's the best way to tackle writer's block.
"Ideally, you find your optimum time of creativity, in my case it's about 6am onwards "And always compose at least the first sentence before you sit down to write. …