How I started writing
by Margaret Scott
I’m often asked how I started writing – You see, I’d always wanted a pony and by the age of eight, after six and a half years of asking, it was becoming apparent that the answer was never going to be yes. So I created my own little imaginary world where I could have as many ponies as I liked. Pretty soon, if only to keep track of my ‘string’, these stories had to be written down and so Margaret of Craddoxtown Stud was born. As I progressed into my teenage years, the stories became less about ponies and more about angsty-but-pretty heroines and undesirable-but-handsome boys, eventually fizzling out altogether when real life started to get way more exciting.
Fast forward a few years to 2004, I spotted an advertisement for a Creative Writing Course in Naas VEC and decided to join. Short stories and poetry made up most of my repertoire back then, and it was only whilst on maternity leave with my first daughter in 2007 that I decided to start a novel.
Yes, this is the same novel that didn’t make it to the shelves until February 2013 … Yes, writing and publishing a novel can take that long …
At the start, I don’t think I realized quite how long writing a novel would take and that there would be just no shortcuts. All during this time I worked by day as an accountant and also went on to have another little girl. But everything happens for a reason and it was the hilarity and helplessness of those early baby years and the juggling that comes with being a working mother that really inspired the story of Holly in Between You and Me.
But writing that first draft was only the start. Having found my voice, my characters and my plot, and after abandoning my family for the guts of two years and boring all my friends, I finally made it to ‘The End’… for the first time. I went on to work on at least three more drafts of Between You and Me quickly discovering that rewriting is like playing dominoes, you change one little thing and everything can topple…
But rewrite it I did, and then came the next step, the big one. Approaching publishers. Eventually I knew I would have to let somebody read my precious creation and after a couple of false starts I turned to Vanessa of www.writing.ie. It was the best decision I ever made. Vanessa gave me lots of tips and advice and was instrumental in finding me an agent; Ger Nichol of the Book Bureau. This was another stroke of luck as Ger and I clicked from day one. She went back over my entire book with a fine tooth comb and I can only liken this part of the process to the final stages of an oil painting, she spotted details that I’d missed and together we applied the ‘fine brush details’.
Getting an agent feels like the answer to your prayers as a new writer, more so if you have an agent you can work with and who will help make your manuscript even better. However, even with an agent involved, the publishing world can move rather slowly… Finally, in July of 2012, we were ready to submit. It was a very exciting time. It got less exciting as July passed, then August and then most of September… and that’s the other bit they don’t tell you. The waiting will kill you. The waiting will turn you into the type of psychopath that checks emails relentlessly on holidays, that wakes in the middle of the night to check emails, that cries when 5pm on a Friday hits and yet another weekend has come with no news… Maybe some people are better with waiting than me, but they couldn’t be much worse. At one point I was blaming the Olympics. Sure who was doing any work while the Olympics were on? I became unbearable to live with, unbearable to know. The only good thing was that I had told no one but a few close friends what was happening. I’d had two babies at this stage and knew that there is nothing more frustrating than the ‘ah, are you not gone yet?’ question and well, waiting for news from a publisher is a bit like that. Better off to say nothing, until you know something.
I will never, ever forget the day I got an email from Ger saying that Poolbeg had made an offer. Somebody wanted to publish my book. Poolbeg, my first choice, wanted to publish my book. I was ecstatic. And still I could tell no one. Because deals had to be done and meetings had to be had and I was so paranoid that one foot wrong could ruin it all.
There have been so many red letter days throughout this process, but driving to Poolbeg to meet Paula Campbell was definitely one of them. I sat in reception anxiously clutching my cup of tea and looked at the books on display and only then did it finally dawn on me that this was real. That my book was going to be on a shelf. From that day on, working with Poolbeg has been such an amazing experience. Despite this being my first novel, they’ve involved me at every step of the process, from changing the name of the book, to how best we could market it. Even the dreaded editing process, which inconveniently happened the week before Christmas, was not as bad as I’d expected. Publishers are under phenomenal pressure these days. The markets have changed, peoples buying patterns have changed and nothing is achieved without hard work and tight deadlines. The thing is, that I know that every demand that’s made of me, every email, every time I’ve had to sit at my laptop till the small hours, it’s all been for my benefit.
And throughout all this part of the process I kept saying ‘who’d have thought writing the actual book was the easy bit?’ This was my mantra for all the months of editing, marketing and promotion… And then, just after the launch of Between You and Me, I started writing my second book and with over 100,000 words of the first draft left to go, suddenly I’m not so sure…
Margaret Scott lives in Kildare with her husband Keith Darcy, two little girls Isabelle and Emily, four dogs, two cats, two donkeys, a pony and a rabbit. An accountant by day, Margaret recently fulfilled a lifelong dream of being a published author and her first book Between You and Me (published by Poolbeg Press) enjoyed several weeks in the ROI top ten Bestsellers List. Margaret’s writing focuses mainly on the trials and tribulations of family life and she is currently working on her second novel.