First or all, write because you love doing it. Don’t write to become famous or wealthy or to have lots of friends who admire you. All of that stuff may happen but don’t write because of it. Write because you enjoy telling a story.
I have heard of people writing a 100,000 word book in two weeks which instantly becomes a best seller but I have never met them. Don’t expect this to be you. Most writers feel pretty good to crack out 2000 words a day and getting a publishing contract can take a year or more and then it can be another year or even longer before it actually gets published and appears on bookshop shelves. Of course, self-publishing an eBook is a lot quicker but you have to really know what you are doing. Be careful.
Write what you want to write. Don’t write books for kids say, about World War One because they seem to be popular at the moment, or crime books because everyone else is doing it. Write what you love and the way to find that out is probably to have a look at what you read. If you love romance stories and you read a lot of romance then write a romance. Don’t worry about people judging you – they’ll do that whatever you write.
Believe in yourself. If you want to write, if you love writing then just do it. And if you can’t handle people saying you will probably fail then don’t tell them what you are doing. No one knew I was writing Thieves except my husband until I had a publishing contract. And even then very few of my friends knew. Most people I deal with every day still have no idea. And it’s okay to keep it that way. They don’t get it and that’s just fine. My mum was the best when Thieves came out: “Hi Mum, my book is getting published.” “That’s nice, where will I be able to find it.” “It will be on bookshop shelves, Mum.” “It’s a real book?” “Yes, Mum, but I’ll send you a copy, you don’t need to buy it.” She’s now one of my biggest supporters. Thanks Mum.
Whatever you do write a great book. Not just a good book, but a great book, a mind blowing, amazing, incredible book. You sell more books this way, win awards, get to do stuff. Don’t complain if your book doesn’t sell, if it doesn’t make it into awards. Just go write a better book.
Saying that, there is a lot of luck in this business. Even with winning awards, just because your book is amazing, that doesn’t mean it will win. I once had a white pony which a friend used to enter into competitions. These competitions were simply about how the pony looked. She used to either win everything on the day, or nothing. She said it was because some judges liked white ponies and some didn’t. If the judges didn’t like white ponies, then she wouldn’t win anything, however much work she had done brushing it and plaiting its tail. When luck isn’t going your way, don’t let it get you down. When it is going your way, when everyone loves white ponies, then enjoy the rollercoaster ride.
Ella West is a multi-award winner teen thriller writer who farms sheep and beef with her husband near Dunedin in the South Island of New Zealand. She likes cooking and gardening but doesn’t like cleaning the bathroom. She occasionally goes trout fishing with her family and they hate her when she catches a fish and they don’t. Her chickens keep getting out and destroying her garden. In other words, life is tough.
And then there’s the sheep.
WARNING: Do not start reading an Ella West book when you are about to go to sleep. Ella West will not be responsible for late nights, sleeping in or missing the start of school the following day.
I lived in Westport for about 15 years after I graduated from university. I went there for my first fulltime job and fell in love with the place. When I went back a few years ago for an author tour, a pupil at one of my talks asked me why I hadn’t written a book set in Westport and I didn’t have an answer. So I wrote this book.