As recent Undiscovered Voices finalist Annaliese Avery (UV2020) celebrates her debut novel, she reveals the lessons learnt from a simple, but career-changing piece of advice in our latest guest blog post.
Nine things I now know
A few years ago, I was chatting with SF Said about the road to publication and he said to me, and I’m paraphrasing here, that “publication should not be the reason that you write. Your aim is not to be a published writer, your aim is to enjoy what you write, it’s all about the journey”.
At the time, I nodded and agreed. But in my head, I thought to myself, “that’s alright for you to say, you’re SF Said! You wrote Phoenix and Varjak Paw!”
However, I thought about what he said on the way home. And that night. And the next day. And the day after that, too. After a week or so, I sent him a message to let him know that I finally got it and I really did.
Whether you’re just starting to think about entering Undiscovered Voices or in the final stages of polishing your extract, here are a few things that I learnt about writing while thinking about what SF said – and a few things since.
1. You can only move within your power
Sometimes, when it comes to trying to get our stories out into the world, we feel powerless, we are waiting for a yes. Waiting for someone outside of us, an agent, a publisher, an editor, to tell us that we can. We forget that there is a huge part of the process that we have ultimate control over and that part is the story.
You have power on the page. You are in command of the words you write and how you write them and when or even if you write them. You put in the work. You learn your craft. You shape your story. And, here’s the key, you get to make it the best story that you can possibly write. Our power as writers lies in creating as few opportunities as possible for someone to say no.
2. Keep your why close
Why do you write? And more importantly, why are you writing this story? Take time to think about this. Keep checking in as sometimes your why changes. Mine did after talking to SF, my Why went from being “to be published” to “to write the best story that I can”.
Once you have your why, take it everywhere and use it when things happen that challenge either the why of your story or the why of your overall writing endeavours. When this happens go back to your why – it will keep you on the right path.
3. Write towards the joy
Write the story that brings you joy. Write the characters that capture your interest. Write the themes that make you mad and the ones that make you hopeful. Write the stories that sing to you. Write the ones that make your palms itch for a pen.
Whether you get published or not, it’s important to enjoy writing. And, when the day comes and you’re asked for another book – it will feel like too much of an adventure to be work.
4. Learn your craft
Invest in yourself, invest in your skills. Never stop doing this. You will never learn all that there is to writing because some things are beyond knowing, they are innate and mysterious.
However, you can give yourself the best shot at success by learning about the craft of writing: how to tell an engaging story, how to connect with the reader, and how to write realistic characters. All of these things you can learn how to do, and put it all into action in a way that’s uniquely yours.
5. Time worries not
The time will pass, as time does, second by second, weeks, months, and years so write in the times that you have. Be precious about your time whether you have minutes or hours to dedicate to your writing, guard them like a bear does her cubs.
We are all given an unknown and finite amount of time to do all the things we need to do. If writing is a thing that brings you joy, a thing that you want and need and love, then give the time to it and give it with dedication, purpose, and power.
6. The journey is yours
It’s called your writing journey for a reason! There is a map … somewhere, and no two maps are the same. It’s different for everyone. There are often route markers, but they’re written in a language that you only almost understand.
Write your story in the best way for you. My advice is to keep finding joy in your journey – look for the light and move towards it. Seek assistance when you are lost. Most of all trust your internal compass – you know the true north of your story is, so believe in yourself.
7. This too will pass
There will be times when you don’t feel like writing and times when you do. Neither stays. When you experience them, embrace them or let them go – whichever works best at the time.
8. Do not ignore your doubts and fears
The doubts will be there whether you talk to them or not. If you ignore them, I’ve found, they will do the same as all things that are ignored they will brood and grow.
Take time to listen. Whether they’re fears of success, failure, or simply writing the story, step back from them and share your why with them. They won’t be as frightening as they once were.
9. The road is lonely but it need not be
Writing is often solitary, but that doesn’t mean lonely. SCBWI offers you an opportunity to connect with other writers.
Find your people. Find those who will support you and guide in a way that makes you feel valid, heard, and included. I have found no greater source of encouragement, support, and nurturing than among my fellow writers.
That’s alright for me to say
So, these are the things I know that have helped me on my writing journey. I hope they can help you, but it’s okay if you just nod and agree while thinking, “that’s okay for her to say, she just had a book published”.
Some advice, like some stories, takes longer to do their thing – words that seep into you and get you thinking. I still think SF is right and we should aim to enjoy what you write.
If you are entering Undiscovered Voices 2022 I wish you good fortune. Make your submission the best that you can and then let it go, the next bit is outside of your power but what you do with the time that is in front of you, how that shapes your journey, that’s all on you.
Annaliese Avery has spent most of her life surrounded by stories, both in her work as a library manager and at home writing them.
She holds an MA in Creative Writing and is a Program Leader and Editor for The Golden Egg Academy.
In January 2020, Annaliese was shortlisted for the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices 2020 anthology. The Nightsilver Promise is her debut middle-grade novel, and the first in a thrilling, new fantasy trilogy to be published by Scholastic.