As someone who dropped out of university due to a crisis of confidence it was thrilling to be invited to speak to students about my subsequent achievements. And proof that you should never let where you come from stand in the way of where you want to be.
I very nearly didn't make it though. I stupidly arranged a dental appointment immediately prior to the talk.
WARNING! THOSE OF A SQUEAMISH NATURE LOOK AWAY NOW!
I ended up having to have a filling, which wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't been for the fact that the dentist decided to use some kind of clamp contraption (which looked more like a medieval torture device) on my tooth while he filled it.
WHICH HE THEN COULDN'T GET OFF!
As I lay on the chair while he heaved and tugged away (all the time saying in a very high-pitched voice, 'Ooh, this doesn't normally happen. Don't worry, we'll soon have it off') I couldn't help picturing myself having to give the talk with a medieval torture device protruding from my mouth. Not the greatest of looks.
Anyway, the dentist continued to heave and tug, and finally the clamp came free - sending him flying backwards across the surgery and his tray of other torture devices all over the floor. (I really hope you aren't laughing!)
I somehow managed to regain my composure - and the feeling in my lower jaw - and hotfooted it over to Brunel. And thankfully, it went really well.
I ended the talk with 10 key lessons I have learnt from my ten years as a writer and thought I would share them here for any aspiring authors out there...
- Always follow your heart rather than the market. If you write about something you feel passionately about your work will be infused with that passion and leap off the page. It will also help you to weather the inevitable rejection that is part and parcel of a writer's life. If you really believe in your work you will keep on sending it out there.
- Write about something new - or find a brand new angle on something that has been written about before.
- Write as regularly as possible.
- Study other authors for inspiration. Read author interviews and websites to find out how they got published and see if you can adopt a similar approach. When I was starting out I always found it encouraging to learn how successful authors had dealt with rejection. It taught me not to give up.
- Follow the example of musicians like the Arctic Monkeys and Lily Allen and use the internet and downloads to build a readership prior to publication.
- Have a web presence. I know of several writers who ended up getting book deals on the basis of their blogs (including Anna May Mangan - see previous blog post).
- Self publish as a way of getting noticed and proving you have a readership, but I would always recommend trying the traditional route first.
- Be prepared to do a lot of marketing and promotion - even if you land a deal with a major publisher.
- Write because you love to write - not for success and acclaim.
- NEVER, EVER arrange a dental appointment prior to giving an author talk!
You can find more writing tips and advice in the study of my Writing Home...