This time four years ago, I did something which changed my life forever; I bought a book called ‘Wannabe A Writer?’ by Jane Wenham-Jones. I read it over Christmas and started the New Year fired up with enthusiasm. 2008, I decided, would be the year I took writing seriously; I was going to get published or die trying.*
One of the many suggestions the book makes is to try writing short stories, particularly those aimed at the women’s magazine market. I seized on this idea with the zeal of the newly-converted. I’d only thought about writing novel up until that point – why not try my hand at something shorter? So I sat down and dashed off a thousand word story – I think it was about a woman who fantasised about murdering her snoring husband (bet you can’t guess where that idea came from) – then sent it with an SAE to Take A Break magazine. Job done, I thought, and sat back to await my cheque.
The story took an ignominious 27 days to wing its way back, with a standard rejection letter enclosed. Undeterred, I wrote another story (can’t remember what it was about but it was probably equally rubbish) and sent it off. Once again, it was rejected with unseemly haste. Then I wrote a 750 word story called ‘Crocodile Tears’, which I sent to My Weekly for their Coffee Break slot. Months went by and the depressing SAE was conspicuously absent. Grumpily deciding it must have got lost in the post, I started another story.
Around May, I received the letter which changed everything. My Weekly liked ‘Crocodile Tears’ and wanted to publish it. That acceptance gave me the confidence to join a new writing group called A Story A Fortnight (SAF for short) and they helped me make more sales. In November 2008, the story appeared in the magazine (I only bought fifteen copies). That first acceptance also gave me the boost I needed to write my first novel, a bitter-sweet supernatural tale for teenagers, and send it out to a literary agent. It became ‘My So-Called Afterlife’ and led to a three book series published by Piccadilly Press.
Even though writing for children quickly took over, I’ve never forgotten that short stories gave me my first taste of writing success. Now that I have a young baby to look after, the tables have turned – less time to write means short stories that I can finish quickly are starting to appeal to me again. And the other brilliant tales in ‘Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After’ have reminded me how satisfying short stories are to read. Watch out, SAF – I could be back!
* This may be a slight over-exaggeration but I was almost that determined.
You can read Tamsyn’s stories The Green Party and One Day at a Time in Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After now, on kindle!