Turn up at the page – Sian O’Gorman

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By Sian O’Gorman

Like all good ideas, it began with a dream. One night, I woke with a plot in my head and I knew I was going to write it. Writing is something I had done all my life, from a professional point of view, but writing a novel had always seemed an impossible task. How do you begin? Where the bejaysus do you even start?♥

Well, it seems, you just do.

My dream led to my time-travelling teenage book, featuring Emily Wilding Davison, the suffragette who fell under the hooves of the King’s horse at the Derby. And although this vivid dream was my starting point, my on-the-blocks moment but I had to keep going myself. So, that’s what you do… you begin at the top of the page and you start writing, and you keep returning to that page until you have 10,000 words, 20,000… 40,000 and it keeps growing.

And then you edit it and by this time you’ve had more ideas so you delete lots and lots and then you write more and more. And finally… after months, years, you have a book. And it is probably nothing like that dream you had or the story you first imagined.

I don’t know why I kept going… probably because once I started I realised how much I was enjoying it, the barrier had been broken. No longer was I that person who longed to write and didn’t.

Tentatively, I began to tell my friends and began to see myself as a writer. It was quite a leap, an audacious one, but no one was laughing (as far as I could tell). All the barriers that prevented me all those years just weren’t there.

Lack of success for my YA feminist time-travelling opus didn’t deter me, either. Shrugging off rejection letters, I decided to write a book for adults. And I did, inching forwards in tiny, minuscule increments, day by day. And suddenly I had another novel which was miraculously accepted by an agent (I pushed it through her letterbox. She emailed to say that her neighbour dropped it round as I had put it through the wrong door) and she found a publisher – the lovely people at Aria Fiction.

Don’t let the thought of failure stop you, don’t let your pesky inner critic prevent you. Turn up at the page, do what you can, inch by inch. One life. Live it.

Sian O’Gorman was born in Ireland, is an RTÉ radio producer and lives in the seaside suburb of Dalkey, Dublin with her seven nearly-eight-year-old daughter, Ruby. Her debut novel, Friends Like Us, is available now.


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