Charlotte Lobb
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My journey to becoming a published author

I wrote my first full-length manuscript while I was at university studying Speech and Language Therapy. I don’t know how I managed to fit it in between my studies and training with the New Zealand Shooting Team, but somehow I did. At the time, I was pretty pleased with my efforts. If I were to read it now, I’d probably die from shame. First lesson for any newbie writer: always put any writing away (preferably for a few months at minimum) before bringing it back out and reviewing it with fresh eyes. If it doesn’t look quite so impressive anymore, keep editing and reworking it. If you’re still happy, then hopefully you’re onto a winner.

It took another ten years for me to attempt my second big work of fiction. It’s this manuscript, Hannah & Huia, that I was lucky enough to have accepted by Quentin Wilson Publishing. I began writing it when my youngest was a baby. Some months, I’d write nothing; others, only a sentence or two. But it gave a sense of calm when the chaos of two little ones could sometimes become overwhelming.

It wasn’t a quick or easy project. It’s taken me to dark places, but also rescued me from dark places. It was only when my husband cried during reading it that I really saw how my words could impact others around me. It was probably the rawness of his emotional response, along with a “it’s not too bad”,  that propelled me on my next stage of the journey.

After spending a good few days scouring the internet for manuscript assessors, I stumbled across some interviews with the now late Stephen Stratford. I was drawn immediately to his blunt honesty, figuring that if anyone was going to tell it like it is, then he would. I think my email to him started something like, “Please be honest if this should remain permanently hidden on my hard drive.” So I was a little taken aback when he replied with nothing but high praise and a suggestion of agents to approach.

Thanks to Stratford’s glowing review, I was lucky enough to secure an agent, Linda Cassells, on my first enquiry. Having an agent opened doors for a publishing contract. Although my manuscript was initially pitched overseas, being an unknown author right when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, wasn’t ideal timing for publishers to take a risk on a newbie. The manuscript was brought back to New Zealand shores and picked up by Quentin Wilson Publishing at the end of 2020. Unfortunately, the knock-on effects of Covid-19 created some publishing delays (publication date: mid-July 2023).

From the time I began writing to the time it was picked up for publishing, I’d never taken a single writing class. I don’t have a writing degree behind me. I just poured out my heart and my story. So if you have a story in you, don’t put off writing it because you “don’t know the nitty-gritty about the mechanics of writing”. Diamonds only have a chance of being polished if they’re first discovered. And a good story is worth far more to a publisher than a flawlessly edited one that isn’t memorable except for its perfectly placed commas and semicolons. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a basic understanding of how to write; I’m just saying that sometimes we can spend too much time sweating the small stuff.

In 2021, I joined Tauranga Writers, which is an awesome writing group here in the sunny Bay of Plenty. So yes, it was indeed well after I had completed writing Hannah & Huia. Through this, I have not only grown as a writer but also in my confidence to see myself as a writer. Too often we think, “I’m not good enough” or “they deserve it way more than I do.” Yet for anyone who’s put pen to paper or tapped away on a keyboard, that’s an achievement in itself. It’s not easy. People are just as prone to tell us what they don’t like about our work as what they do. We can spend years on something only to have it rejected. Something I’ve learned along the way is to keep believing in yourself. Surround yourself with those who understand the process you’re going through and help lift you up. And when success does finally come your way, allow yourself to celebrate it. It doesn’t matter if success is signing a publishing contract, finishing the first draft of a project you’ve always dreamed of writing, or just deciding that today will be the day to begin.

Celebrate. Be proud. And remember, be kind to yourself.

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