Nothing is wasted – Kate Hewitt

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By Kate Hewitt

I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen. It was called Down Jasper Lane and it was a blatant Anne of Green Gables rip-off. Three hundred thousand words long (yes, really), it never saw the light of day. I was so clueless I didn’t even know who to send it to, or how. I hole-punched the whole thing and put it in binders (three, because it was so big) that I still have.

My second novel was a romance for Mills & Boon. I researched the genre and thought I knew what I was doing. Looking back, I realize I didn’t. That book, and two that followed, were politely rejected and I put them away.

After that I decided not to waste my time, lots and lots of time I didn’t have as a mother to young children writing only at night, writing a novel that wasn’t going to be published or make me any money. I turned to short stories, because they’re, well, short. I found I was able to write a story in an evening or two after the children were in bed and if it was published, terrific, if it wasn’t — I hadn’t wasted months of work.

But somewhere along the way I learned that nothing is wasted. Yes, you learn from everything you write. You grow as a writer, and that is truly priceless. The only way to grow as a writer is, of course, to write. But beyond that, ideas from earlier books can resurface months or even years later, clarified, honed, better than ever before.

That Anne of Green Gables rip-off? I took the idea and characters and turned it into a serial for a magazine, and then a novel that was published — but I didn’t keep one of those 300,000 words! An idea for a play I had when I was twenty-two, when I had aspirations of being a female Shakespeare, turned into a novel, This Fragile Life, twenty years later. I realized when I wrote This Fragile Life that I couldn’t have written it back in my twenties, when I was young, inexperienced, and childless (the story is about infertility and pregnancy). I needed that time and experience to be able to write the story I’d thought of ages ago, and thankfully it found an outlet.

When I was making the move from short stories to full-length novels, I felt a deep-seated reluctance that was almost paralysis because I didn’t want to waste any effort. And I did end up writing two 100,000 word novels that never got published, never went anywhere. That’s still a bit hard to stomach, but the truth is I needed to write those books before I wrote one that saw the light of day. And I wonder sometimes if those novels gathering dust on my hard drive might one day morph into something else — a new and even better idea, and I’ll be in the right place emotionally to write it.

When I talk to aspiring writers, they are often worried about writing something that won’t ever get published. And while I can certainly relate to that, I can also say nothing you write is ever wasted. And if you don’t write a book to begin with, you certainly won’t get published. No chance! Some sixty-odd published books later, I still have to remind myself to take a risk and to trust in the creative process, and in the journey I am taking as both a writer and a person.

Kate Hewitt is the author of over sixty novels of romance and women’s fiction. Having had her start writing short stories for women’s magazines in the UK, she moved on to writing romance for Mills & Boon/Harlequin, and then to women’s fiction and historical novels. Her latest series, Willoughby Close, is set in the Cotswolds and is about four unexpected neighbours, each of whom must find her own happy ending. An American ex-pat, Kate now lives in Wales with her husband, five children, and a Golden Retriever. You can follow her ex-pat adventures on her blog, acumbrianlife.

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