Wanting to be a novelist, becoming a journalist…
As a teenager, I loved being able to walk into a library, open a book and immediately be entertained or inspired; I could end up anywhere, immersed in a stranger’s world. I thought it was the coolest thing and I decided that writing novels was a trick I wanted to master; I wanted to be able to write books that could entertain others the way my favourite books entertained me. But I knew I couldn’t exactly leave school and ‘become a novelist’ so I decided to do something else that involves writing , like, err, journalism. After studying English Literature and Sociology at university, I did a course in Newspaper Journalism and having got to grips with shorthand and media law, I set about becoming a reporter, despite the fact that you were still more to find me glued to a novel than a copy of The Times.
After interning at my local paper in Oxford, I ended up getting hired and started covering all sorts of stories, from dramatic court cases to heart-warming charity fundraisers, and found I quite enjoyed it. I loved the unpredictability of driving to work each morning not knowing where I’d end up or who I’d be interviewing. Chatting to people and getting to write up my articles was fun, but I still wasn’t overly interested in anything political or gritty (a slight point of contention for a news journalist!). Anything council-related bored the hell out of me. I was also phobic of anything death-related, which isn’t exactly ideal when murders and repatriations of soldiers were the stories we were expected to dig our teeth into and splash on the front page. So, after a couple of years, I left to follow what I felt was a more suitable path – working in charity communications for the British Red Cross. This job did suit me better and I stuck at it for a while, but unfortunately my best friend had recently passed away and, struggling to deal with the grief, I ended up hopping on a plane to India (this didn’t feel like a cliché at the time but looking back on it, it totally was. Pretty much every traveller I met in India had suffered a recent trauma – a death, a divorce, serious illness, etc).
I spent four months travelling solo across India, Nepal and China and then returned to London where I was re-hired by the Red Cross on a short-term contract. When this contract ended, I began freelancing. It wasn’t a deliberate move, I just sort of fell into it and I was lucky that bits of work kept coming my way, through friends, family, and blogging (I had a beauty blog back then). I found I was making enough that getting a 9-5 job didn’t really feel worth the additional stress. And after all, I still wanted to be a novelist and freelancing afforded me more time and flexibility to work on my creative writing.
That was around four years ago, and I’ve been freelance ever since, working for clients ranging from arts organisations like the Barbican Centre to national newspapers like Daily Express. I’ve written in a huge range of styles, from technical copywriting, covering subjects like big data, computing and business, to conversational journalism for the consumer press, writing about lifestyle topics like health and beauty. The variety of clients and commissions I’ve worked on while freelancing has sharpened my writing ability immensely and it’s even become addictive; I love the fresh challenges that writing about diverse topics presents and I enjoy tweaking and tailoring my style accordingly (geeky, I know!).
But what about becoming a novelist?
While I’ve been freelance, I’ve written two novels, quite a few short stories and a couple of novellas. The first novel I wrote is so terrible that I don’t think I even bothered saving a copy when I got rid of my old computer, but the second is much better. Essentially, the first was just a writing exercise for my latest.
My dream is to be a commercial women’s fiction (aka chick lit) author like Sophie Kinsella since for some reason, I can’t seem to write anything that remotely resembles literature. But although I like writing in a light, humourous style, it’s also important to me that while my characters and scenes are funny, they’re not unrealistic. Ditzy heroines have had their day – they’re just patronizing to women – so my characters may be a little quirky and awkward, but they’re definitely not stupid and the situations they get themselves into aren’t totally ridiculous.
At the moment, I’m querying my latest novel to agents. I’ve had a bit of interest so far but no offers of representation yet. I’ll keep trying and I’ll blog about my journey here! I know it’s incredibly competitive so I’m approaching the whole querying thing with optimism and hope, but also trying not to hope too much!
As well as writing commercial women’s fiction, I also write erotica under a pen name and self-publish on Amazon. I’m completely fascinated by self-publishing and can literally spend hours reading through posts on forums discovering new tips and tricks. I’ve become slightly obsessed by it and I’m constantly learning new things, so I thought it would be fun to share my musings with other writers on this blog.
So, that’s my writing journey so far. I hope you enjoy reading what comes next!