Call yourself a writer?


Er, no.

Not so far, anyway.

Sure, I’ve had ‘writer’ on my twitter profile for a while. But when anyone asks me what I do, the closest I get is ‘I’m trying to be a writer’, or ‘I’m sort of a writer’, which makes me sound confused at the very least.

Now, I could claim that I’m ‘trying’ to be a writer because I’m a newbie. I’m all about honing my craft, learning by doing, and none of us can ever claim to know everything there is to know about such a limitless subject. And that’s all true.

But if I’m being totally honest, the reason I never claim to be a writer is because I’ve never put any of my writing into the public domain. And the real reason for that is – I have a problem.

I call it ‘gold star syndrome.’ And I blame the education system.

From the age of about seven until twenty-six, I did exams. Music exams, dance exams, entrance exams, school, university and professional exams. Learn stuff, show someone what you know, get a certificate. And, on the whole, I did pretty well. I got used to being judged and rewarded by an appropriate external authority.

And then, about four years ago, I started writing regularly.

At first it was okay. I could handle it. I took a few courses, and the tutor gave me feedback on my flash fiction and occasional short story. Quite often there were compliments – gold star box ticked.

But then my sister asked for help with a novel she was working on. Come on, she said, it’ll be fun. We can stop whenever we want to. And no one need ever know.

She was right. It was fun – too much fun. And you know how it is with stories: they want to be read, and not just by your unsuspecting family members who have no choice.

So we did the obvious thing and…didn’t self-publish. This is not because I’m a publishing snob. I’ve read wonderful self-published books, and terrible traditionally published books. But both sister and I decided we wanted our hands held by an agent. And like I said, I’ve got a problem. I was looking for the gold star.

Of course, it turns out gold stars (in this case, agent representation) are not that easy to come by. We edited, redrafted, edited again, but the furthest we got with our first novel was two full manuscript requests, and that was over the course of about a year and half of submitting. Still, it seemed like our writing didn’t entirely suck. We’d had some nice rejections. So we abandoned our first baby and started something new last summer. By Christmas it was finished and polished. In January we started submitting. And…

And something amazing happened.

Within two weeks of submitting to our first agent, we had three full manuscript requests.

Five days later, we had three offers of representation. Three gold stars.

Sister and I know we have a long way to go. Agent representation isn’t a publishing deal, and a publishing deal doesn’t mean anyone is going to buy (or like) our book. We’ve reached Lothlorien, but we’re a long way from Mount Doom. (On second thoughts, that may not be the best analogy, but you get my point – we’re not in the Shire anymore, Mr Frodo). And yes, my need for external validation is a tiny bit pathetic. But at least now I’m pathetic and happy.

Hello, my name is Katharine. And I’m a writer.


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