Rod Reynolds, author of The Dark Inside and Black Night Falling, discusses the challenges of a career in writing.
In the weeks after signing my first book deal for The Dark Inside, I quickly noticed that this is a grown up industry. My first book was in for edits, and the second was due in little over a year. No one checked up on me. No one emailed to make sure I was doing the work. Coming from my career in advertising, where everyone wants everything yesterday, deadlines shift under your feet, and there’s always a stakeholder chasing you up, it was refreshing.
But it was also a little unnerving. In 2012, while planning what would become The Dark Inside, I signed up for a creative writing masters degree at City University London. Part of the reason was to motivate myself to keep writing; I was working full time and struggling to write as often as I needed, so the regular deadlines and tutorials the course imposed seemed a good way of pushing myself. As such, when it came to my second book, Black Night Falling, I worried that without that structure I would slip behind.
What I found, and I think all writers do this, was that it makes you hone your process. Every author I talk to works differently, but the one trait we all have in common is that when the words won’t come, we all lean on our own method. For me it was – amongst other things – writing six days a week, setting daily word limits that were flexible depending on what time I had to play with, and weekly word limits that weren’t. It worked for me, and I trust my process now to get me through future books.
One trait we all have in common is that when the words won’t come, we all lean on our own method.
The other major difference is in support networks. While writing The Dark Inside, I had constant access to the established authors who taught the course to critique and, crucially, encourage me in my writing. Furthermore, my class – many of whom have gone on to secure publishing deals – met often, both formally and informally, to workshop each other’s writing. It’s invaluable support, even for someone like me who prefers to share the ‘finished product’ to the work in progress. You find the critics whose voice you trust. It’s for that reason that, even now, two years since graduating, most of us still meet on a regular basis for the same purpose. So in that sense, not everything changed second time around.
That’s not to say that doubts don’t creep in. Certainly, the second time around, I felt them more acutely. As an unsigned author, there are always questions – about whether your book is any good, whether you’ll get an agent, whether you’ll get a contract. But ultimately, if none of those things happen, you dust yourself down and start again. This time around, I had signed a contract and accepted an advance; I’d made commitments to a publisher who was expecting me to deliver. That’s a whole different type of pressure, and it makes you second guess yourself. All you can do is learn to trust yourself, your instincts, and a small group of helpful voices.
Black Night Falling by Rod Reynolds is published by Faber & Faber (£12.99)