Writing in the library and Women’s Prize and Grazia Writers’ Evening

4 Jun

So yesterday the sun was out on the final week of the London Literature Festival, at the Southbank Centre.  I decided to take a day off to be semi-productive but over the weekend I had contracted one of those mysterious nasty flu-like things that pretty much wiped me out for Saturday and Sunday.  By Monday, I was feeling slightly more like myself, albeit a fragile and frailer version of myself, so I forced myself to take advantage of my day off and the sunshine in London.  Talking to other writers, I’ve realised that many get most of their work done in a library.  Seeing as my local library (I live out in the sticks) is open at ridiculous hours and mostly caters for the OAP residents who gather round and chat about their days out, it’s not proved the most conducive for my writing in the past.  So I decided to expand my horizons and ventured into the library at Victoria.

I was pleasantly surprised.  I’ve become so used to buying books that I’ve almost forgotten the benefits of libraries.  They allow you to dip your toe into genres you wouldn’t necessarily normally buy into which can be invaluable for broadening your literary scope.  I popped along with just a pen, paper and my well-thumbed thesaurus and found that I probably did more quality work there than I would have done in a whole day at home.  There are just far too many distractions at home; there’s always something better to do – you know, hugging my dog, making my third cup of tea or just staring out of the window.

Southbank sunshine

That evening, I tootled on down to the Southbank Centre and listened to Kate Mosse (author of Labyrinth) discuss with debut novelist Rachel Joyce (author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry) how she decided to write a novel, how she went about the whole process and tips for novelists.  None of this was that new – her advice was mainly: keep going! – but it was very interesting to hear and made me far more enthusiastic about finishing my darned book.  Other speakers included the gorgeous Felicity Blunt, a top literary agent at Curtis & Brown (and sister to Hollywood actress Emily Blunt!) and Joanna Prior, Managing Director of the Penguin General Division so I learnt a lot about the process of getting an agent and of publishing the book.  There is so much that goes into getting a book onto the shelf of Waterstone’s and this talk was invaluable in learning about making that process as easy possible, from providing advice about writing an excellent cover letter to targeting the most appropriate literary agent for your novel.

Really useful stuff and encouraging for aspiring writers out there.  Mosse emphasised that the first draft is not meant to be perfect and you cannot edit and improve something that isn’t there, so keep persevering.    Rachel Joyce also expressed the importance of having confidence in your work as writing, being a solitary occupation, is a prime time for all your demons and insecurities to emerge.  The key is to plod on until you finish.  As Samuel Beckett so eloquently put it: ‘Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.’

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