From the Author’s Mouth: 5 Things I Learned on the Road to Publication
Welcome to our new series of guest posts, From the Author’s Mouth. We’ve invited some of our incredible published Ink Academy alumni to share their journey from aspiring writer to published author.
First up is Sussie Anie, who completed her Ink Academy course in 2017 with tutor Marina Kemp. She was subsequently signed by literary agent Juliet Mushens, and received a two-book publishing deal with Phoenix, an imprint of Orion. Her first published novel, To Fill a Yellow House, was longlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and has been described as ‘a skilful debut novel … majestically narrated’ (Observer), ‘nothing short of a joy’ (Caleb Azumah Nelson) and ‘an exquisite, absorbing and buoyant story of vulnerability and companionship’ (Buki Papillon). It is now available in paperback.
5 Things I Learned on the Road to Publication
by Sussie Anie:
#1. Everyone’s journey is different. Stay curious and ask questions
I previously imagined, looking at hardbacks in bookshops, that once a writer signed with an agent, the route to publication was predictable – even standardised. I soon learned that this is not the case. Serendipity can play a major role. There is always more to learn, and conversations with other writers revealed there is often more room to experiment and try new approaches. Asking questions, no matter how trivial they may seem, is essential, and to a considerable extent, the experience is what you – and others around you – are able to make of it.
#2. Balance matters
As I wrote the initial drafts of To Fill a Yellow House whilst working full time, my creative energy outside of work went into researching, drafting the novel, reading and editing. Since publication though, I’ve found more room to explore new (and old!) spaces for storytelling and expression. There is a lot of waiting in the publishing process, but more recently I’m finding a sense of balance in following curiosity and inspiration, whether that’s in making music with friends again, or getting into nature photography and writing more short stories. Publication reminded me that storytelling is part of a broader way of being, and gave me space to follow curiosity where it leads.
#3. Celebrate and enjoy the journey
I’m learning to celebrate and find joy in every stage of the journey. Publishing my debut novel reminded me that the process itself – of making and in turn being remade by art – is the greatest reward. Whilst preparing for publication, at times I found myself distracted by milestones and particular moments that were easy to shout about, and while it’s exciting to reach certain points on the journey, since publication I can see that it was the movement itself, not just the highlights or stops along the way, that made the process meaningful. There is always more to learn and to play with, and celebrating this helps me maintain a sense of perspective.
#4. Community goes a long way
Before I published To Fill a Yellow House, writing was very much a solitary (and almost secret) pursuit. But the journey to and since publication would have been impossible without community – especially other writers, who shared advice, events, music, long walks in parks, anxieties, good and less-than-good news, and much more along the way.
I first experienced this sense of community through an Ink Academy course, working on a previous project. The experience was invaluable – transformative. Alongside thorough feedback on my writing, the encouragement and positivity (and the joy of wandering around Covent Garden afterwards) that I experienced on the course inspired me to take my writing more seriously. Every story is different, and the story of how a book comes into the world will be unique in many ways, but publishing taught me that the journey is more fun and insightful when it’s shared. Connecting with other writers, you never know what you might learn, or what others might learn from your experience.
#5. It takes time
Writing a novel is a journey of discovery and refinement. The editing process can be particularly challenging, and may turn out to take longer than expected. It is important to give yourself time (as well as time away) and to focus on what your specific story requires. From buzzy announcements – especially on social media – it might seem that publishing moves quickly, but it is worth remembering that success gets amplified, and much of what is shared online is carefully curated. This makes it all the more important to connect with other writers – in real life, if possible. Working towards and beyond a novel, writing can be a transformative journey, but it takes time and perseverance. While it is not always easy, in my experience so far I’ve found it to be deeply rewarding.
Click here to read more about Sussie and her exquisite first novel, TO FILL A YELLOW HOUSE.
Click here to buy your copy of TO FILL A YELLOW HOUSE, published in paperback Thursday 25th May 2023.
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