My friends and family have been bugging me to write a book since I was jotting down short stories in old diaries as a child and I've always batted them away. Despite the journalism, the blogging and contributing to online publications, a book has never been in my plans. I had a very set idea of what a book should be, I definitely can't write fiction, and my writing style lends itself to short and sharp pieces.
In November, I went to Paris and took with me a copy of Becoming by Laura Jane Williams. Lauren and I spent a grey afternoon in a cafe with a charcuterie board and a bottle of red wine while I devoured this book. A memoir about the end of a relationship and not knowing who you are and trying to piece everything back together again. On the plane home, I had a blank notebook in my lap that I'd bought at Shakespeare & Co. I started scribbling there on my easyjet fold down table. It was the start of a book.
I threw words at the page. Thousands and thousands of words. But the days I didn't quite know where I was going, or couldn't face thinking about a stage of my life, meant writing down something, anything to keep the wheels of the project going. After a few months, I looked at my Word document and realised I had thousands of words of incohesive mush. And even if I managed to make it into something that resembled a book, what was I supposed to do with it? I had visions of sending it to publishing houses with a note attached: Please read my book.
When I found out my inspiration, Laura J Williams herself, was running reasonably priced writing workshops from a flat in Kensington, I signed up to two of them and booked the flights. The first was a general writing workshop where we learned what I needed desperately: Not necessarily how to write, but how to edit. Kill your darlings if they don't serve the story. See if you can say what you need to say, but in half the word count. The second was what the fuck to do with your project once you've finished it. Who to send it to and what to expect if you get your yes, no, when you get your yes.
I don't know if I can emphasise enough how changed I am for doing these workshops. How powerful it was to be in this little flat with such talented women, all being kind to one another and helping one another. I feel I have made lifelong bonds with people I spent a mere two days with. And I came away with a new belief in my book. In my one on one time with Laura, she said: "You already know what you're doing! You know what you want!" And I really do.
If you want to improve an aspect of your writing, or feel a little muddled about where you're going, keep your eyes peeled for other workshops. Laura's busy gallivanting in the USA after releasing her second book, but you never know. She might be back for another semester.
Now, go away. I should be writing my book right now instead of speaking to you lovely people.