27 Jul 2015 / My Arvon Week
Something huge happened recently. My first novel, a YA thriller called Now You See Me was picked for the Amazon Summer Sale, climbing the charts to a whopping #49 in the Kindle store. In the same fortnight, I handed my third book to my publisher, and was up for an award in Sussex.
These are a few of the things that have happened in the year since getting published. And I’m not mentioning them to show off, but to emphasise something I once never believed: you can do it. You can. You really, really can.
Scroll back a few decades. I was a freelance journalist, scraping a living writing for the nationals, but in my heart of hearts, I wanted to write a novel. I wanted to do this so badly I couldn’t even acknowledge it to myself, let alone anyone else. I tried ignoring it. Tried not to feel like I was letting life slip by.
Eventually I pulled myself together sufficiently to write a middle-grade novel. Sent it to a few agents. Got a request for the full, followed by a polite rejection. Did I take the feedback on board? Revise? Did I hell. I hid the file so deep in my computer I could never stumble across it again. Couldn’t face even opening one of those Word documents. More years slid by.
Then one day I booked myself on an Arvon course. I can’t remember what prompted me to do it, but a few months later I found myself at Totleigh Barton with other wannabe authors. It was a great week. I felt inspired. I went home, started a new novel (Now You See Me), became demoralised. Buried it again.
But that first Arvon course had shifted my attitude. I’d heard the tutors – ‘real’ writers – describe their initial rejections, but persevering and eventually finding success. I booked myself on another course. And then another. I’d been suffering a major case of writer’s block, I realised, the result of some very stupid ideas – that authors are born, not made. That good writers never get rejected. I saw my problem was less lack of ability than suffering from a seriously thin skin.
Where I’d gone on those Arvon courses hoping to learn how to write, what I gained was far more valuable. Arvon made me realise I had to toughen up. And that fear and procrastination had cost me valuable years when I could have been honing my craft.
I went home. Carried on revising Now You See Me and sent it out. Got rejections aplenty. Kept submitting.
Then one day the phone rang, and the rest is history.
Emma Haughton was a journalist working for national newspapers and magazines before settling down to write young adult fiction. Her first book, YA thriller NOW YOU SEE ME, was published by Usborne last year. Her second, BETTER LEFT BURIED, came out in May.
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