Have you ever had a secret you were dying to tell but didn’t know whether you could or should?
My secret for 2011 was the most delicious of my life: I entered Shahkara (my manuscript) into a competition where it was read and liked by LJ Smith. I mean, THE LJ Smith, author of the Vampire Diaries (TVD), the Secret Circle and the Night World Series. LJ was the creative force behind the modern urban fantasy vamp, way back at the dawning of the 1990s, when mobiles were nearly as big as your toaster – long before Whedon’s Buffy slayer dazzled our TVs or Meyer’s Twilight tried to rock the Earth off its axis. LJ Smith is one of my favourite authors. She creates characters that resonate within us. Her heroines are smart and sassy, her heroes sexy-as and her plots contain more twists, turns and emotional punch than a cocktail party at Las Vegas.
Life can be tough when you’re a struggling, unpublished author. You juggle full-time work with late night and early morning scribbles. You fuel yourself on coffee and chocolate, then feel guilty when yet another weekend social event forces you to choose between those you love and that story that burns inside you, begging to be let out. If a big publisher has requested your manuscript, you’d think it would settle you but as the months drag on, you wonder if they’ll ever find time to read and assess it.
Imagine my delight when Lisa (LJ Smith) emailed me personally and said she’d been sucked in by Shahkara! The fan girl inside me was delirious with delight. I felt honoured that she’d even taken the time to read my entire manuscript, but then she wrote this: “Shahkara, the book, is unique, and Shahkara, the character, is one of the most engaging strong female role models I’ve seen in a long time. This girl can handle herself! The plot is full of ingenious twists, turns and surprises, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.” Yabba-Dabba Do! Lisa also offered valuable feedback on how to enhance my manuscript. It was back to the keyboard and I felt truly blessed.
So whenever you doubt yourself as a writer, or feel disillusioned by the passion you’ve given so much to, often without visible rewards, all you need to do is enter a competition or touch base with a fellow writer or friend. The act of entering a comp will buoy your spirits. It’s harder to lose enthusiasm when you have a few lures out on the water, waiting for that tasty bite to come in. Otherwise, put aside a night to spend with your faithful laptop and immerse yourself in your story. When you feed your passion, your confidence grows, and brings you closer to sharing your stories with readers across the world.