I’m still in the process of being published for the first time, so I’m right in the middle of all the new, exciting experiences that come with it.
Right at the start of the process, I got to visit the London headquarters of my publisher, Penguin. Everything was Penguin orange, and I got to stand behind a giant Penguin lectern when I read a short story to the children’s books division. For a book lover like me, this was a dream come true, and it’s got even more exciting from there!
I’ve learned so much about writing from the people I’ve worked with. A small army of people collaborate on a book; way more than you might imagine. I’ve been lucky to receive guidance from some brilliant people, and we’ve spent hours and hours editing my book together. And some more hours. Oh, and after that we spent a few more hours on it! (There were many hours.)
Editing my book was a wonderful experience, and a very important lesson: you can write something, even something good―but it’s nowhere near finished. If you want to become a writer yourself (and you should, it’s the best thing in the world) then polishing and editing your work is just as important as the first, brilliant idea that gets you started, maybe even more important.
Something else that I’d always dreamed of as an aspiring writer was the cover of my book. What would it be like? Would it be a photograph? Illustration? In colour? Or black and white? Sometimes I would wander into the Young Adult section of bookshops and picture what Riverkeep would look like sitting there on the shelves.
And now I know! The beautiful cover is elegant and rich and beautiful. As a reader, I’ve always loved examining cover art, returning to it as I read; matching the elements and objects as they reveal themselves through the text, and Riverkeep’s cover is PERFECT for this! Holding my words as an actual book, with an actual cover, and a map and page numbers and everything … that was a very emotional moment.
Another (even more) emotional moment was presenting a copy of the book to my gran. Riverkeep is dedicated to her and my grandpa, who died in 2010. I miss him a lot. It would have blown his mind to have seen this happening to me, but I got to share it with my gran, and that was so special. My grandparents have been inspirational to me, and this was one way of showing them how much I love them.
Finally, the most unexpected experience of all: people have read my book. I know this sounds daft because that’s what books are for – but stick with me. I wrote the words, I invented the characters and the world and the creatures, and then I finished and thought “Great! What’s next?” So I got stuck into writing my next book. I somehow forgot that human people would actually read the book, and the characters that I’d made up would then live inside their heads. And people have been talking to me about it, and telling them it made them laugh or that they cried and it’s so unexpectedly wonderful.
I dreamed about being a writer for a long time, and if you’re reading this then there’s a good chance you have that dream too. All I can say is – go for it.
Write and write and write in your spare time―then write some more.
Learn what you’re good at―and do more of it.
Ask people’s opinions―and be brave enough to listen when they tell you something’s not working.
Throw things away; learn from your mistakes and, gradually, slowly, you’ll get better and better.
And one day you might find yourself holding a copy of your own book, looking at your own cover – and putting it in the hands of someone you love, who inspired you to get there.
Riverkeep is out 28 April
Check out Martin’s Twitter @martinjstewart