Calling yourself a writer: the leap

I haven’t posted about writing in a while and that’s a good thing because I’ve been busy. Writing. Or rather, reading. And editing.

There are three books on the go. My original book, which I spent a lot of time researching and interviewing for is on hold. I wrote 30,000 words, got stuck and gave up. Or ‘parked it’. Much better term.

Because I’d told people of my story line and they still ask me about it, I think it has potential and I will need to complete it at some stage. There’s just something about it not sitting right at the moment. Other projects are calling. But it will have to be finished. For me.

I wrote in the summer of the motherless child advertisement I’d read in my local paper from 1880. I found it too strong a call to action not to start this as a book. So I did, and wrote 8,000 words in one day.

While I was writing that, something else happened – and I had to go back to another project I’d started. This was an idea I had for a pocket novel series. Pocket novels are 50,000 word novellas. A full length book is generally between 90,000 and 120,000 words, so you can see how a novella is very appealing.

I had sent my idea off to a pocket novel publisher and they came back to say they liked it. They addressed the email to a different person; it said ‘Dear Verity,’ but I didn’t let this put me off. A simple mix up I thought.

Anyway, I hadn’t even started the project when I’d sent off the idea so I immediately had to start. I finished the novella in three weeks. And it turns out that it was Verity they were after. I never heard back. But I did get a nice little novella out of it.

Because I had really struggled with the first book I tried to write, and now had something that you could call, complete, or a rough draft, I wrote a blog piece called 10 essential tools for struggling writers. This got a bit of traction and was shared on

With my chapters and rough drafts, and hours clocked up at the keyboard, something was beginning to change. Confidence was growing. There was a tiny voice inside. It said (squeakily)… I’m a writer.

This is quite a big leap to make. Because, when you haven’t anything published, and don’t know if you ever will have, you feel like you are bluffing. That you are pretending to be something you are not. That people might laugh at you. That an agent might sneer.

But, only good things have come from making this announcement to the world. I was shortlisted in the Blog Awards Ireland and from this I got some local PR. One family member, related through marriage contacted me to say they had no idea I was a writer and that they were a book reviewer and copy editor. And had loads of contacts. And did I need any help?

By labelling yourself a writer, you put yourself under pressure to write. People hold you accountable. ‘How’s the book coming along?’ You begin to build it into your life – to set out goals and deadlines to meet.

This year, the one competition I wanted to enter was the Greenbean Novel Fair. I was six months out from deadline and thought I had loads of time. But, when my first project fell down and I got to a month before the competition closed with only shreds in my hands, I thought, I can’t believe I’m going to miss this deadline; that I’ve let myself down on the one project I wanted to complete.

And then the novella reappeared and I did a bit of work on it and I thought why not and I entered it. I am not expecting it make the shortlist. I don’t feel that what I have posted in is what they are looking for. But I’ve met my deadline. And in that oft X factor cliche – I feel like I have won already.

Posting off that package was a very happy moment for me

There have been other wins too. In two weeks I’ll be attending the launch of Original Writing’s Anthology, which I’m delighted to have made it into. I entered Choc Lit’s Search for A Star and they have come back to request the full manuscript. I think this is standard, but still, I have to polish a whole manuscript for a publisher – something I’ve never had to do before and another rock to wobble on during this long writing path.

I wrote a piece for Make your Mark competition run by the much admired Vanessa O’Loughlin and while I wasn’t placed, I was really happy with the piece and intend to enter it in other competitions. I attended a wedding on Thursday and late in the evening, while checking my phone in the loo, I got an email from the Irish Times to tell me I’d reached the longlist in their amateur travel writing competition. There were over 500 entries and I’d reached the top 45. I’d forgotten I’d entered. So now I’m looking at travel writing. Because after a year spent pursuing my dreams, of going from having nothing but a vague aspiration, to a blog, to three draft manuscripts to understanding a truly fascinating world of business called publishing – I could do with a good holiday. Now, where to go? I’ve heard those writer camps are good…


December Girl is now available on Audio. Visit Amazon or Audible or click on the cover below to download.

December Girl audiobook

2 Comments on Calling yourself a writer: the leap

  1. Jaysus, Nicci – fair play!! 3 books on the go and all those submissions? That’s seriously impressive – you’re putting the rest of us to shame!! Something about this piece made me think of Li Gilbert’s “Big Magic” (I finished reading it the other week so it’s still on my mind)…she’s great at putting writing into perspective and how you shouldn’t let the fact that you aren’t published or making a living off of writing put you off from calling yourself a writer. By the sounds of it, you’re more of a writer than most – no doubt your big break is just around the corner!

    • Aw thanks Nessa! This piece was more for myself to take account of things I think: so much going on in my head! It started out as an u achievable dream: now I see all these stepping stones to get there. Just need s but of luck! And a few more edits! X

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