Valuing alternative narratives: How to be a positive member of the writing community.

It’s the one thing that is asked time and again – ‘Tell us your journey to publication.’

Partly, we like the story of the author to be as interesting as the story they sell us. I always worried I was too boring to be an author. There was nothing tremendous or particularly special about me, except that I could spin stories on a page. I am not particularly adept at doing it in real life, or in conversation.

But the main reason we ask, is because we want to replicate the effect. We want to know the nitty gritty, the exact thing they did. Sometimes, an element of it will be relevant to us, but most of the time it won’t.

Another element is that we want to know that someone does things the same way we do. We want to be classified as traditional or indie, with agent or independent, plotter or pantser. We create boxes for ourselves, because all of us, at all stages of our journey, at one time or another, struggle with legitimacy.

We each want to be a ‘real’ author – so we look for the markers in others to determine what that means. Then we look to ‘successful’ authors to see what they’re doing.

The thing is, success looks different on everyone. And so does the route heading towards it. Back at the beginning of my journey, I would look at authors where I am now with envy. Now, I turn my head towards the next goals – higher sales, different defining factors of success.

What we need to remember, as members of this community, is that everyone’s story and journey is different, but that does not mean it is not as valid. Those with agents are not more talented, and may not necessarily achieve as much with an agent. Those in professional groups or with memberships and affiliations are not more professional than others. Those with traditional publishing deals are not necessarily at an advantage over those who self publish.

Each journey has its ups and downs, its forks in the roads, and if being part of this community has taught me anything, it’s been the comforting realisation that there is no one right way.

But this is a job where egos are delicate and fragile, where the dismissal of one author can shatter and break belief in your journey. Where being made to feel that if you don’t have an agent, a big name publisher, big sales, consistent income, five star reviews….you’re not doing well.

The thing to remember is your goals, and to stay in your lane. Define success for yourself, and with each book, aim to improve, and beat your own goals, rather than competing with other authors. You have a unique voice, and a unique story, and the best way to be part of the community is to share that without judgement, and celebrate others’ stories without judgement as well.

There is room enough for everyone who has a story to tell, and we are all doing brilliantly.


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