Then I wrote a halfway decent novel. It wasn't a masterpiece but it had a good storyline and seemed to flow well. I thought that was going to be 'the one'. I shopped around for agents and publishers and, to be honest, got some positive feedback but mostly outright rejections. I even had one editor tell me that I would be a good writer once 'I found my voice'. I didn't know what the hell she meant by that, I didn't even know my voice was lost. However, I'm not a complete dummy and eventually the penny dropped as to what she meant. I wasn't writing in the right genre for me. Well that wasn't a huge surprise in some ways as I'd tried practically every genre you can think of except for Westerns.
Then one day it happened. It was almost like magic in a way - I found a storyline that I really liked. I worked really hard and was, for the first time in my writing career, actually pleased with the end result. It was exciting and scary all at the same time. Again I shopped around for an agent or a publisher and this time, while I still got rejections, I also got an incredible amount of really positive feedback. Eventually I decided that if I couldn't get a decent contract via a traditional publisher - and I'd been offered a few real stinkers - then I would go Independent. I felt that confident in the novel. So, of course, was born Erich's Plea. I truly felt it was the best thing I'd ever written. I published and it started to sell, not huge amounts but slowly building over time and it's still selling.
Then I wrote and published the follow up, Ursula's Quest. I thought this book was even better than the last. It too slowly gained sales and even a few reviews. For the most part I've had hugely positive feedback on both novels and pretty impressive reviews. Mostly 5 or 4 stars out of 5, which I thought was excellent. Then I wrote the final in the trilogy, Slade's Destiny - still coming for release while I do all the final edits - and it was even better than the first two put together. And that's when I finally realised something that had eluded me for so long. Every time you put pen to paper you get better. Like a musician or an artist if you have the talent to begin with then your writing will continue to improve the more that you write.
Many of you are probably thinking 'well duh' at this point but I can be a slow learner at times. I thought talent and drive were more than enough to be a successful writer. I thought that if you had the gift then it would all just fall magically into place. It took me a very long time to realise that talent is only a small part of the life of a writer. Hard work, discipline, having a thick skin, getting real critical feedback and working at improving are all far, far more important than sheer talent or inspiration. Lots of people are talented but not everyone has the humility to work hard and keep learning. I hope that I have that humility, I hope that I will always continue to improve and yes, I hope that one day I make mega sales and become a household name. But mostly I'm realistic about the last one - I'm one of many, not the greatest but slowly gathering a following and I love each and every single reader I have. Without you, the reader, everything I've put into my work is worthless - both talent and hard work. So it's not an easy ride but it is exciting and a constant huge learning curve and I love every single minute of it.