I need to thank Michael for having me on his blog today. I asked at short notice if any of my friends had space on their blogs for this week and Michael offered straight away. The crime writing community is one of the kindest communities I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of. So, thank you, Michael.
Michael gave me a range of topics he was interested in hearing about and The best piece of writing advice I’d received, was mixed in there among the others listed. It stuck out for me because I did receive some advice very early on in my career and it’s advice that has stayed with me, advice that I have held on to and advice that I continue to follow, even in ways that it wasn’t necessarily intended for. I used the advice to suit me and it has served me well.
Very early on, before I had even finished my first novel, Shallow Waters I was lucky enough to have someone in the publishing industry request a read of what I currently had. And after reading that partial piece of work, said publishing person phoned me, wanting to talk about my writing and to talk about me as a person. This conversation shaped where I then went from there. It pushed me and gave me the impetus to keep going and to never stop. To believe in myself. To know that this was the path I wanted to go down. I was, as I’ve said, very lucky.
What was that advice? It was simple really.
Yes, that’s it. Be yourself.
The context was in relation to my comments to the person about reading up on the art of writing, about how I was reading books and blogs on how to write (I was really new to writing at this stage) and I was told to not overdo this, in fact, I may have been told not to do this at all, but to be myself. To be myself on the page because if I continued to be myself on the page then one day, Rebecca Bradley would be published. You can see how this would drive a writer forward can’t you?
But this post isn’t about how that conversation personally pushed me, it’s about how the advice itself applies to any writer. And how I applied it to the rest of my writing life.
We all need to know the rules of writing. You need to know the rules even if you intend to break them, you need to know them in order to break them. But, as for the voice on the page, that has to be you. You have to write as you. Tell your story naturally, but use the rules that you know exist and a voice that belongs to you will appear. I couldn’t tell you how my voice sounds on the page. Not everyone will like it, but it works for me and for my set of readers. It’s easy to mimic other writers you read regularly, but finding your own voice takes time sat with your bum in the seat, but it does come.
So, how does this work outside of the page? I decided to take the advice literally and be myself and I can actually be quite stubborn about it as well. Maybe to the detriment of my career? I don’t know. But what I do know, is, that I am happier and more settled because of it and you need to decide whether you can live with a fake front just to get ahead or if you want to be true to yourself. Now that’s not an easy question to answer, so don’t be too quick off the mark with your answer.
I’ll give you an example. I had an agent who said to me that hiding my illness, or at least talking about it less, might be better for my career. At first I agreed with them, and stopped all talk of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and invisible illnesses and disabilities and overcoming them and striving for what you want, no matter what you contend with, but then I became discontented with it and I couldn’t keep quiet any longer. It wasn’t me, it didn’t feel natural.
I have a saying in my life, that if people can’t accept me the way that I am, then they aren’t worth getting upset about. This goes, for me anyway, with the publishing industry as well. (This might not be the post Michael wanted!) And it’s not a stance I’d tell everyone to take. But for me, I can prove that I can still work regardless of how ill I am and that was the concern of the agent, that publishers wouldn’t want to take a chance on me if they thought I was too ill to produce the work.
So, my advice is, be true to your art – as long as you know the rules. And, be true to yourself – as long as you know the potential outcome.
That way, you will enjoy the journey a hell of a lot more!
As an aside, how I got to talk to said publishing person before I had even finished my manuscript? Twitter! Yes, seriously. One day said person stated they were on the lookout for this specific kind of thing. I tweeted back and it went from there. Don’t hound people, but the publishing world exist on social media and if you’re in the right place at the right time, you never know what might happen.
Rebecca Bradley is a retired police detective who lives in Nottinghamshire with her family and her two cockapoo’s Alfie and Lola, who keep her company while she writes. Rebecca needs to drink copious amounts of tea to function throughout the day and if she could, she would survive on a diet of tea and cake while committing murder on a regular basis. Sign up to the newsletter on the blog at www.rebeccabradleycrime.com, for exclusive content and giveaways.
Her latest novel is available HERE