What a Difference a Year Makes!
A year ago, my debut novel, Skeletal, was released. After five years of rejection for novels, screenplays and picture books, by 2017, I was starting to feel like my writing career would never get off the ground.
Then a magical book fairy with a dark mind took a chance on a genre she doesn’t usually print. We knew it wouldn’t sell millions of copies right out of the gates but it sold in the thousands and has a loyal fan base, which is awesome! My first novel can only be described as a hot mess. There were grammar issues and typos, it wasn’t as well-crafted or tight as I would have liked and this was because I was a newbie and had no idea what I was doing or how things worked.
What being brave enough to take the plunge and accept a book deal did do was tell me that yes, I do have a talent for storytelling and yes, people enjoy what I write (phew!) but I also found out that my dystopian stuff is not mainstream and therefore more likely to find fame on the screen but with some of the more questionable scenes cut. Those who have read both books know what I’m referring to. Thankfully, the sequel, Avian, was a tighter book. I listened. I learned. I did better.
Next step: write what my publisher and mentor asked me to write in the first place. I needed to get the dystopian story out of me. I love it. I love the characters. I love the bleak world and the monsters within it, but ultimately, people told me I write like a screenwriter and that the duology would make a great TV series or film, and I think they’re right. Visuals and set pieces are my strengths. Flawed characters (especially secondary ones) and dialogue (or not using too much of it) are also strong points for me. I found out structure is my weakness. This epiphany was thanks to Lucy V Hay and her advanced screenwriting course. Now I know what I need to work on. Writers are always learning and improving. Which is good because all I want to do is keep getting better and giving my audience a better experience with every new project.
At the beginning of 2018, I was asked by a friend (cheers Jon) to pick a word to describe what 2018 was going to have in store. I said EPIC. It has been that. Since my first novel was published my career has shot forwards at breakneck speed. Here’s what happened.
In 2011 my first published work was a picture book. This was a fluke, and created to raise money for charity but it was also the catalyst for my decision to become a professional writer.
The real journey began end of 2016 when the first short story I'd ever written, London’s Crawling, was a finalist in a competition and then won a place in the Dark Minds anthology published by Bloodhound Books. I went to the book launch, met the publisher and thought they were awesome! They asked me to write crime. I’ve always been fascinated by serial killers and cults but didn’t have any ideas for a crime novel. Seeing my distress at losing out at The London Book Fair when my agent told me interest was shown in my novel but they ultimately passed, Betsy at Bloodhound asked to see what I was working on. I sent her two manuscripts. She could not publish the YA novel because it doesn't fit her list but said she would like to publish the dystopian thriller duology.
This was the push I needed and wow was I in for a shock. The whole process was a huge learning curve. I learn by doing so I had to get stuck in and see what would happen. I now understand how the industry works and what's expected of me. I’m forever grateful to Betsy, Fred and the team at Bloodhound for allowing me to learn on the job.
I was also being pushed forward by a band of wonderful friends and my mentor, Lucy V Hay, who has been cheering me on since we met online in 2013. At least, I think it was that year. I can’t remember how our paths crossed but I’m so glad they did. From there I met the incredible film maker, Chris Jones, who has been a source of encouragement and inspiration. I was asked to collaborate on a fun book/film project with writers I’d met through Chris’s Create50 initiative. I was also asked by the awesome Bob Schultz to be on a panel at London Screenwriters’ Festival, chatting to screenwriters about writing novels.
Not many people knew I had submitted a children’s animation to CBBC in 2014 and I think a few were baffled as to why I was asked to do the panel, so I had to reveal that little secret. Yep. I wanted to be a screenwriter but switched to novels because I didn’t know how to get into that industry. Now I know what I must do. There is a right time for everything.
My EPIC year looks like this: Oct 2017-2018
This is a lot in a year. Considering tumbleweeds where blowing past for the five years previous.
What does 2019 look like? In my mind, there are four novels published (though, if I only manage two, I will be happy). There will be more of my short stories out there. I want to find homes for a few that are written and waiting for life. I’m moving forward with screenwriting. I have some new mentors and the existing ones are still kicking my arse, which I’m super grateful for. I’m going back to CBBC with a new professional approach. I’m also going to work on a project using the story that started it all. London’s Crawling will be back but there’s more to London than the terrifying Spians.
If you’re a writer and currently hitting your head against a brick wall of rejection, my one piece of advice to you is GET OUT THERE. Meet people in the industry. There will be folks you immediately click with and those people are the ones you need to work with, go find them! Good luck.
Emma Pullar is a bestselling and award-winning writer of dark fiction and children's books. Her picture book, Curly from Shirley, was a national bestseller and named best opening lines by NZ Post. Emma has one writing competition and awards for her short stories and short scripts. Emma's debut novel, Skeletal, was published by Bloodhound Books in autumn 2017, the sequel, Avian, was published summer 2018.
Emma's crime debut, Paper Dolls, was released March 2019. The audiobook is out Aug 15th and Czech Republic edition will be published in 2020.
Emma also writes articles for Bang2write and Into the Script.
Follow Emma on Twitter @EmmaStoryteller or Instagram @emmapullar_storyteller or fb Emma Pullar.
Follow Emma on Goodreads.