A Letter To My Unpublished Self by Kate Harrison

Head and shoulders profile pic Kate Harrison April 2013

Dear Me,

Honestly, Kate, will you get on with it?

You’ve got a novel’s worth of excuses. There’s that Open University degree you’re doing because you’re the only person at work who isn’t a graduate and it makes you feel small. There are the long hours you work away from home. And the fact that you don’t know any novelists, and that even becoming a journalist was way, way beyond the expectations of your school careers teacher…

But get a grip, Kate. You know you want to write. Think about  those scribbles you do on the beach on holiday. All those ideas you keep having and forgetting. And you don’t have to have been to Oxford to be an author  any more – look at some of the writers you love, like Nick Hornby and Helen Fielding and Lisa Jewell. They didn’t… oh, OK, Helen Fielding went to Oxford and Nick Hornby went to Cambridge but, you know, it’s not essential (P.S. one day you’ll go drinking with Lisa Jewell).

What’s that? You’re scared you’ll be rubbish? Only one way to find out.

And you hate rejection? You’d better develop a thick skin. In the next few years, agents will be the least of your worries. Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads will all be full of people dying to tell you exactly where you’re going wrong…

Though, luckily, there’ll be plenty of readers who think you’re getting it right, too.

What about other writers? Won’t they be intimidating types in smoking jackets or killer heels? Actually, in ten years’ time, some of your best mates will be writers, and you couldn’t wish for a more supportive and sociable bunch. Because you all know what it’s like to spend hours trapped with your characters – those imaginary friends – and are desperate to get out and meet real friends over real bottles of wine.

Truth is, you’re scared to make your dream come true. And like most dreams, it won’t end up the way you expect. You’re not going to win the Booker. You’re not going to have a movie made (at least not in the next ten years. But never say never). You’re not going to get a million pound advance.

But you will get to work with some of the best editors and agents in the business, to learn how to tell stories better. You’ll get to see your books in Smiths and Waterstones (and Borders and Books Etc though, alas, they won’t be there in ten years). You’ll have a proper book launch or two, and you’ll hobnob with the authors you admire at publishing lunches and parties.

And one day – not straight away – you’ll become a full-time writer. You’ll have a desk and a really, really serious case of internet addiction, and some days when your characters refuse to play ball, you’ll need reminding why you were so keen to give up the day job…

But other days the words will tumble out like magic and you’ll feel like a Proper Writer. Or you’ll speak at festivals and  meet teenage girls who love your books as much as Justin Bieber (don’t ask!) Or you’ll get  emails from all over the world from women (and the odd man) telling you that you made them laugh or cry or both.

Don’t worry about running out of ideas. Over the next few years, you’ll write about brownie guides, divorce, mystery shopping, murder, school reunions, erotic embroidery, military boot camps and even clown phobia.

One warning: you won’t find inspiration in the biscuit tin. You’ll put on almost two stone when you start writing full-time. But  – astonishingly – you’ll lose the weight, write a book about it, and help thousands of others to do the same.

But none of that will happen if you don’t pull your finger out. Go on. Be confident. Start right now:

Once upon a time…

Yours bossily (but it’s for your own good),

Kate 

In September, it’ll be ten years since Kate Harrison’s first novel, Old School Ties, was published.

Since then, she’s written nine best-selling novels for women, including The Secret Shopper series – and she’s also killed plenty of people off and created an online community for the dead in her scary Soul Beach series for teenagers. And her latest project is writing a cookbook to accompany The 5:2 Diet Book (www.the5-2dietbook.com) which has been riding high in the Kindle and paperback charts. 

www.kate-harrison.com

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