Posted by Leigh Russell
F Scott Fitzgerald said: ‘You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.’ That was certainly my experience. I’ve written elsewhere that the only fiction I wrote before my debut Cut Short was in my school reports... As a writer it seems I buck the trend because I had no lifelong ambition to write books. I simply had an idea for a story, wrote it down, and was fortunate enough to attract the support of a publisher. Only since becoming a published author have I appreciated what a widespread ambition I’ve achieved. Like Richard and Peter, I encounter numerous people who want to write a book. WHY? So many people appear to believe that writing a book is easy. It isn’t. Producing a decent book – not self-indulgent rambling, but a book that thousands of strangers will enjoy reading – takes many months, in some cases years, of dedicated application. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people say: ‘My life is so interesting/inspiring/courageous, I really should write my autobiography.’ But such personal reminiscences don’t attract publishing contracts because publishers know what the authors of such chronicles fail to understand. No one is going to buy these journals, unless you’re a celebrity and even then success is unlikely. All of which is not to say that such individual histories aren’t interesting and valuable to the right audience and for the right reason. We all have our stories to tell - just don’t expect hundreds of thousands of people to read them. I’ve asked my father to write down his personal memories of a lifetime through the war and then as a GP whose career has spanned the rise – hopefully not the demise – of the NHS. The family would read and treasure it, with each generation adding its own narratives, but I wouldn’t try to publish it because, outside of our family, who is going to be interested? It would be like stringing holiday videos together and hoping they’ll become a blockbuster when – hello, reality check - they won’t even make it to the cinema.