Today, I welcome Tracey Alley as Guest Blogger at the Muse Shack. We all face obstacles as we strive to make that book or article as good as it can be. When we find ourselves hitting a brick wall of criticism or indifference from others, it can seem as though all our creative energy has been shattered. We are left wondering if we really have what it takes to be a writer.
In this post by Tracey we realise that if any one had good reason to give up on writing, Tracey had. Yet in this blog, we see that tenacity and self belief will always win out in the end. One of the most important qualities I believe that helped Tracey succeed was her honest self appraisal of herself and her work, and her ability to reflect on feedback while forging ahead armed with her new information.
I am delighted to have Tracey share with you today. I hope that you are energised by her determination and that you will find her books as exciting as I have begun to do.
Let me say from the very beginning, it’s tough being a writer whether you’re published, traditionally or Indie, still unpublished and struggling. Either way it’s a tough game. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and 95% of what I’ve written has been pure and utter junk. For twenty years I wrote poetry, short stories, novels and even a few magazine articles. To this day I have folders full to the brim of storyline ideas, plot outlines and even novel beginnings – much of which is pure rubbish and some, maybe, with some hard work could be something good. Had I bothered to keep them all I’m sure I could’ve wallpapered my whole house with rejection slips.
Then I wrote a halfway decent novel. It wasn’t a masterpiece but it had a good storyline and seemed to flow well. I thought that was going to be ‘the one’. I shopped around for agents and publishers and, to be honest, got some positive feedback but mostly outright rejections. I even had one editor tell me that I would be a good writer once ‘I found my voice’. I didn’t know what the hell she meant by that, I didn’t even know my voice was lost. However, I’m not a complete dummy and eventually the penny dropped as to what she meant. I wasn’t writing in the right genre for me. Well that wasn’t a huge surprise in some ways as I’d tried practically every genre you can think of except for Westerns.
Then one day it happened. It was almost like magic in a way – I found a storyline that I really liked. I worked really hard and was, for the first time in my writing career, actually pleased with the end result. It was exciting and scary all at the same time. Again I shopped around for an agent or a publisher and this time, while I still got rejections, I also got an incredible amount of really positive feedback. Eventually I decided that if I couldn’t get a decent contract via a traditional publisher – and I’d been offered a few real stinkers – then I would go Independent. I felt that confident in the novel. So, of course, was born Erich’s Plea. I truly felt it was the best thing I’d ever written. I published and it started to sell, not huge amounts but slowly building over time and it’s still selling.
Then I wrote and published the follow-up, Ursula’s Quest. I thought this book was even better than the last. It too slowly gained sales and even a few reviews. For the most part I’ve had hugely positive feedback on both novels and pretty impressive reviews. Mostly 5 or 4 stars out of 5, which I thought was excellent. Then I wrote the final in the trilogy, Slade’s Destiny – still coming for release while I do all the final edits – and it was even better than the first two put together. And that’s when I finally realised something that had eluded me for so long. Every time you put pen to paper you get better. Like a musician or an artist if you have the talent to begin with then your writing will continue to improve the more that you write.
Many of you are probably thinking ‘well duh’ at this point but I can be a slow learner at times. I thought talent and drive were more than enough to be a successful writer. I thought that if you had the gift then it would all just fall magically into place. It took me a very long time to realise that talent is only a small part of the life of a writer. Hard work, discipline, having a thick skin, getting real critical feedback and working at improving are all far, far more important than sheer talent or inspiration. Lots of people are talented but not everyone has the humility to work hard and keep learning. I hope that I have that humility, I hope that I will always continue to improve and yes, I hope that one day I make mega sales and become a household name. But mostly I’m realistic about the last one – I’m one of many, not the greatest but slowly gathering a following and I love each and every single reader I have. Without you, the reader, everything I’ve put into my work is worthless – both talent and hard work. So it’s not an easy ride but it is exciting and a constant huge learning curve and I love every single minute of it.