How I overcame writer’s block – Tara Bond
By Tara Bond
I’m one of those annoying people who had a relatively easy path to getting my first book deal. In fact, I was fortunate enough to end up in one of those dream scenarios that you read wistfully about when you’re aspiring to be published. A wonderful agent signed me up straightaway; my novel went to auction; foreign rights were sold in several different countries. I remember thinking at the time: ‘this can’t go on. Surely my luck’s going to run out at some point…’♥
It turns out I was right. My first book, a racy family saga, didn’t sell as well as my publishers had hoped. Meanwhile I’d written a second book that I wasn’t especially keen on. I’m still not quite sure how that happened, but I suspect it was somewhere around the ideas stage. When I’d written my first novel, it was in the isolation of my own home, with no concept of marketing or sales figures. Suddenly I felt horribly conscious of which books were bestsellers, and which weren’t. When you meet with your agent and publisher, they’re always talking about The Next Big Thing, and it’s hard not to feel somewhat inadequate if you aren’t matching up.
And that’s where the problem began for me. Having had such a clear idea for my first novel, and written it with such confidence, I was suddenly filled with self-doubt. I found myself looking at the market, and which books were performing well, and trying to come up with ideas that were similar. The problem was, by the time I finished my second book, I realised I’d written a book that wasn’t really what I wanted to read.
This was back in 2011. By this point, my agent had arranged another deal with my publisher for a third and fourth book. A dream scenario for most writers, when we all struggle to get published! Except for me it wasn’t, because I had no clue what to write. Over the next few months I spent hours brainstorming ideas, but nothing ever seemed quite right. I got to the point where I wasn’t even sure which genre I was writing in any more. I did put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) a few times, but I’d always get so far and then go off the idea and give up.
The situation dragged on. I kept missing deadlines with my publisher, to the point where they would have been within their rights to demand their advance back (thankfully they didn’t). My editor and agent stopped politely emailing to ask for updates. I think we’d all given up on me ever delivering a manuscript.
Then one night in August 2013, during a long, hot Tube journey, I started reading Abbi Glines’s Fallen Too Far. It was pure escapism, totally cheesy and fun – one of those read-in-one-go books. And I thought: why aren’t I writing something like this? I’d spent the past couple of years tying myself up in knots about what to write, but when it came down to it, all I’d ever wanted to do was produce books that readers would enjoy. I needed to stop agonising over what to write, and start having fun again.
This may sound like a simple point, but it was a revelation to me. It was also slightly risky. Abbi Giles wrote in a different genre to me – the New Adult genre, which had only became popular quite recently. For those that don’t know, New Adult books generally refer to fiction that is similar to Young Adult, but pitched at a slightly older audience (although frankly I’m a lot older and still really love them!) I’d actually discovered the genre over a year earlier, and been voraciously reading the likes of Jamie McGuire, Christina Lauren and Colleen Hoover ever since. The problem was these books were quite different to what I’d been writing before – I’d written in the third person, from multiple character perspectives, and covering years if not generations. New Adult books are written in the first person, and tend to focus on one intense love story. What would my agent and publisher say about the change?
I took the risky decision of not asking! By that point I figured my name was already mud. Surely producing something was better than nothing – especially if I was passionate about it. If they didn’t like it, then I’d just have to go elsewhere.
And so I began writing Beautiful Liar in September 2013. This time I had no writer’s block. I raced through my first draft, and I finally sent off the finished manuscript to my unsuspecting agent and publisher in April 2014. Thankfully they loved it. Since then I’ve written a second book, have a rough draft of a third that I’ve put on the back-burner for now, and started on a fourth. My writer’s block is a thing of the past since I’ve gone back to writing what I love. And even though my new books may not be perfect, or destined to become massive bestsellers, I feel really passionate about them. They may not be to everyone’s taste, but I can honestly say that they are the kind of books I love, and I’m excited to get the word out to readers who love this genre.
Obviously I’m not saying this is an ideal scenario. I wasted far too much time procrastinating over what to write, and inconvenienced my agent and publisher no end. I have a lot of making up to do. I’m also starting over from scratch again in terms of gathering fans, as my publisher decided it would be best to publish my new books under a pseudonym since they’re in a different genre to my first two. But I also think that there is a clear takeaway point from my story for both aspiring and published authors: forget trends and markets, and simply write the book that you want to read. You’ll undoubtedly have heard that advice before, but I’m living proof that it works.
Tara Bond grew up in Surrey, England. She read History at Cambridge University, before working in various sensible office jobs. She lives in London with her husband, and loves reading and writing, as well as watching movies and TV box sets. Her guilty pleasures are cocktails and chocolate desserts. Tara Bond’s new novel, Beautiful Liar, is out in eBook now and in paperback on July 30.