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I Gave up Writing

Writing can be challenging, with some very deep downs. Today, Tamara M Bailey shares her experiences of the benefits of giving it up, and how that led to the publication of her new SF thriller, The Other Olivia.

A photo of author Tamara M Bailey, smiling. She is wearing a black square-cit dress and a black choker necklace, and is holding a very large embossed leather book or leddger. Behind her are a brick wall and fairy lights.
Photo of Tamara M Bailey by Jess Gately

Christmas Eve, 2013, I rolled over to my partner at the time and told him I was giving up writing. It broke my heart to say out loud.

I was giving up writing.

I’d been writing since the year 2000, all the way back in ninth grade when I was penning fantasy adventures in notebooks for my friends. I migrated to online fanfiction in 2001, and started submitting manuscripts to publishers in 2006, my final year of university.

They told me never to give up. They told me that if I just kept trying, and trying, and trying, I would definitely get there.

I didn’t get there. And honestly, my mental health was taking a hit. I was in a dark place, thinking dark thoughts.

I wasn’t good enough. I would never see my name on the cover of a book. Everyone on my Twitter feed was celebrating signing contracts with agents and publishers, and here I was, still archiving rejection letters.

It was the best decision I’d ever made. I replaced my notebooks with teaching textbooks and threw myself into my job as a primary school teacher. I filled that hole with creative lesson plans and classroom pedagogy. I gave teaching my everything.

That lasted for exactly four months. I realised my best friend’s birthday was coming up. This was one of the friends who used to read my fantasy adventures back in high school, and she still read every single word I wrote.

I thought, Hell, I suppose I could write her a story for her birthday.

I churned out an entire manuscript in three months. It was a rewritten version of those early fantasy stories, but without the pressure of publication behind it. This one was just for us. I ditched the writing rules I’d so diligently been following and wrote from the heart.

She read it. She loved it. In fact, she loved it so much, she told me I had to send it to a publisher. This was it. This was the one.

So I did. I arranged a meeting with an editor through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and I gave her the first few chapters. She asked for the rest. I thought, This is it. This is how all the stories go. It was my last crack at writing, and it will be the one that breaks through.

It wasn’t.

She said no.

But by then, I realised I loved writing too much to give it up for good. I learnt to write for the sheer joy of writing, for my best friend and I to swoon over love interests and laugh at private jokes.

I wrote another manuscript. This one was a high fantasy version of a fanfiction I’d written in 2009.

It got rejected.

I used the world-building from that high fantasy story and crafted a middle-grade novel about a young girl who travels the high seas with a pirate queen, fighting the mythical creatures that cross their path.

That editor from before? She’d asked me to send her other manuscripts. I sent her Lintang and the Pirate Queen.

It got accepted. So did the next in the series. And the next. It sold in the US. I went on a US book tour. I had done it.

And then I had to go through the whole thing again, because my new manuscripts were being rejected.

That’s the way it is sometimes.

The cover of The Other Olivia by Tamara M Bailey. THe cover is in shades of green, the top half showing a tree and the words "The Other"; the bottom has the word 'Olivia' in a design that partly reflects the words above, with an image of a foetus in the O of Olivia. The reflected tree is made up of binary code. The tag line 'Life will Find a Way' is at the top and the authror's name at the bottom.

So I mined my old stuff, wrote for the love of writing, and kept on keeping on, singing to myself quite regularly, Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

Remember that high fantasy version of a fanfiction I’d written? I took out the fantasy elements and turned it into a sci-fi. A ‘techno-thriller.’ It got rejected a lot.

And then it didn’t.

And that’s how The Other Olivia was born. Because I gave up writing.

About Tamara M Bailey

Tamara M Bailey is the author of crime and thriller tales. As well as The Other Olivia, she has a fantasy crime coming out next year called Blood & Stone, and her short stories have appeared in several anthologies. Her children’s books are written under the name Tamara Moss, where the first in the series, Lintang and the Pirate Queen, was a Notable in the Children’s Book Council of Australia awards, shortlisted for the Readings Children’s Book Prize and received a starred review from the School Library Journal.

Tamara also writes about ‘what to do when the rejections get overwhelming‘ at Improbable Press.

Buy The Other Olivia

Find Tamara M. Bailey online:

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