Last year I ran a competition on Twitter, the prize being for an author to feature on my blog for a whole year. The lucky winner was Lynne Milford aka LM Milford. During the course of this year Lynne will be writing a variety of guest posts which I hope you all enjoy.
My writing journey
If you’d asked me as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer would, without any thought, have been ‘a writer’. By that, I meant a published author with a shelf groaning with my books. I think I was about seven or eight-years-old when I developed this ambition. It was last year, at the age of 36 and a half, that I finally achieved that aim. That should tell you just how long my writing journey has been!
But in actual fact, I’ve been a writer since the day I picked up a pencil at the age of seven or eight and started to try and write a story. When I look back at my work it’s clear what I was reading at the time because my writing very much mirrors it. When I was in my Famous Five phase, it was always children having adventures without the problem of parents stopping you from having fun. When I hit my teens and moved on to Sweet Valley High and other romantic fiction, I tried my hand at that but soon realised it wasn’t for me. I simply couldn’t create a heroine who wasn’t a carbon copy of any other heroines out there. Maybe it was that I didn’t really believe in romance – it was something that hadn’t really touched me and so I couldn’t express it.
Then I met (figuratively speaking) a nice lady called Agatha Christie. Suddenly reading, and writing, took on a new dimension. I’d found my home – my genre – in the tightly plotted mystery. I recently said to a friend that Agatha Christie was one of my major influencers and she said you can see it in my book – what a compliment! So it’s clear that you learn to write by reading extensively in your genre.
It was an exercise in a Year 9 English literature class that really set me off on my journey to being a crime writer. We were told to write the opening scene of a novel, using a number of set words. Mine turned into a private detective heading down to a country house party to tackle a mysterious circumstance. You can see Agatha Christie’s influence there, can’t you? I never finished that book (I may one day, who knows) but it gave me the taste for sitting down and creating people and a mystery that my main character had to solve. And, of course, he would be the only person who could solve it!
I’ve always been aware that a career as a full-time writer is a long way off – if not out of my grasp – and so I’ve always had a full-time job. I started out in journalism and it was during a very dull council meeting that the book that became A Deadly Rejection started to develop. That was in about 2007, so that will also tell you how long the writing journey is (or can be). Over the next two years I poured the unplanned story onto the page and then learned, the hard way, that a novel needs to be plotted out before you start writing. Otherwise you spend ages going up blind alleys and wasting a lot of time. At the end of the two years I was quite pleased with the story and after a bit of tinkering sent it out to a few agents. I now recognise this was a bit of a mistake because the book was nowhere near ready, but I have a very nice rejection letter from one agent which I’ve kept all these years.
When nothing happened with Book One, I decided to sit down and write another. Again it took two years, thanks to my full time job and a period of illness. It was also unplanned. However, this gave me the confidence that I could do it again – by which I mean finish something. That’s a big challenge in writing – to not decide that what you’re writing is a load of rubbish (it probably isn’t) and give up.
Since then, I’ve learned a lot. I revised A Deadly Rejection over and over again, learning more and more about the plotting and editing process as I went along. It’s been slow progress and has taken longer than it took to write to kick the book into shape. It’s taken blood, sweat and tears (literally in some cases) to get the book to where it is, but it’s been worth every second. To stand there holding your paperback, knowing that you did it all yourself (it’s self-published) is a feeling that’s second to none.
Publishing the first book is fantastic, but it’s not the end – it’s only the beginning. I’m currently kicking Book Two into shape and am hoping to publish it later this year. Then it’s onto writing Book Three and editing the novella that I’ve already written.
Sometimes writing is hard work. Just getting into the writing chair feels impossible. But it’s worth it for the end result!
A Deadly Rejection is available in paperback and ebook through Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0768WP1SB
About Lynne Milford
By day, I work in PR and communications; by night (and at weekends) I write crime fiction (as well as baking pies and chocolate brownies).
In a previous life I worked as a local newspaper reporter. This gave me the inspiration for the story that has become my first novel, A Deadly Rejection.
I live in Kent and spend far too much time on trains commuting into London for work, which does however give me time to work on plotting and writing my books.
You can keep tabs on what I’m up to by following me on Twitter @lmmilford or by checking out my blog www.lmmilford.wordpress.com. I write about what I’m working on, advice on what I’ve learned through my work and how to move forward with writing.