The Sacrifices It Takes to Write a Book
And How To Apply for the Bergstrom Studio Grant
I know the real sacrifices it takes to write a book. People often ask me: ‘did you always want to write a novel?’. It’s a fair question. One that I’ve sat with and given a lot of thought. I think the assumption is that writing my own book was always the dream I held for myself, but in truth, I’m not the sort of person who dreams for things that aren’t possible. At the stage in my career when my book published, it made perfect sense. All I did was talk about books, recommend them, hold them up in front of my face, and my whole existence – let alone job – was seemingly tied up in the magic of literature, dressed in a garment of words. But where I came from, people like me didn’t write books. Before I got my first job in publishing, I’d never known a published author or anyone who had ever written a book (with the exception of the academics who taught me when I eventually got to university). Those people just weren’t on my radar, they weren’t in my life. They were super human, people who were immortalised on bookshelves and interviewed on television.
It was a big enough leap to hop off the National Express and land my first job in publishing as a publicity assistant (sidenote: it was less of a ‘land’ and more of a year-long slap in the face, suffering gruelling rejection after rejection) More on that another time. But seriously, getting my foot in the door to serve coffee in meetings to a novelist was dream enough come true. Being present in editorial meetings and getting to listen to those clever, educated people was a luxury I never thought reality would afford me. Putting pen to paper, that was never a consideration. Not for years to come. I nearly didn’t take the first editorial role offered to me because I didn’t think I was good enough. Even a senior male editor encouraged me to really go away and “think seriously if it was the right role for me”. Turns out it was, and I commissioned my first book within six months of taking the job (Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates), breaking (I’m told) a company record. And it was only through becoming a good editor that I ever thought I’d be a decent agent, and only through being a successful agent that I ever thought I had something to say, something worth putting in a book.
In actuality, it took for me to have a physical space of my own (my first one bed flat in London which I rented age 30 for £1250+bills which nearly crippled me) and a decent income that I could support myself on without running out of money at the end of every month. You see how the space and the disposable income don’t really run hand-in-hand? And then there was the final ingredient to finding my own bollocks to start writing: a career in publishing with unprecedented exposure to writers, the process and how it all really works. Without these three things, I would never have written a novel. I know that for a fact.
And it’s not just about space and money. The sacrifices you have to make to write a novel are endless. You jeopardise relationships with those you love most because you need to be alone to write; you have so much less time available to you and there’s less opportunity for rest which means you sacrifice your health and wellbeing because something has to give; you often tread back through previous trauma or difficult emotional experiences to use as the raw materials to construct characters or storylines; and you sacrifice immediate gratification – writing is about the long game and you will have days where the whole thing feels utterly hopeless.
I started Something to Say because I want to reach more people and make advice and guidance around publishing and writing more accessible, not to mention demystifying some of the idiosyncrasies of the industry and how it ticks. You are a paid subscriber, and in paying for your subscription, you’re helping me support those who aren’t in a position to pay, but who still deserve more access to information and the industry. I’d love to hear more from you though, especially if you’re writing something and especially if there are specific things you’re interested in and would like me to write about. So please leave your thoughts and questions in the comment box.
I wanted to let you know first that Bergstrom Studio is launching a grant next week, which will be open for submissions for a month, and I wanted to give you a head start in case you plan to apply. You’re the first to be receiving this information and can apply now before the grant officially opens on Monday.
When I first started thinking about setting up my own business, the visual and image that kept coming back to me was of a community for writers to connect and grow together. I knew I wanted to support and encourage both published authors and aspiring writers to find their voices. When I launched Bergstrom Studio I made the commitment to spend our first year fundraising and to donate some of our profits after the first year of business to this grant. It’s to help support an underrepresented writer in the UK, someone who is working on or wanting to start writing their first novel. I know writing a book takes sacrifices but I also know that so many writers don't have those privileges to sacrifice in the first place. Many aspiring writers are on the back foot and not as visible or afforded the opportunities that others receive. I'm hopeful this money will make a huge difference to someone out there who has the talent and deserves the chance to pursue their potential. I know it would have made a huge difference to me.
We are giving a £6000 grant to support someone working on their debut novel. This is no-strings-attached financial support, the money might be used to cover time to write, childcare, a physical space to write, it may subsidise income or rent.
The Grant Criteria:
- UK RESIDENT
- FIRST NOVEL (i.e. you have never had a novel published)
- UNDERREPRESENTED VOICE
To apply, please send the below as three separate attachments to email@example.com
1). A 600x word synopsis of your book
2). The first two chapters of the book (or a maximum of 5000 words of material from your novel).
3). A personal statement about you and why your voice is underrepresented (a maximum of 1000x words)
Please do let me know if any of you decide to apply!
The Bergstrom Studio Grant is funded by Bergstrom Studio, Brazen, Midas PR, MØRNING, Emma Gannon, Gina Martin, Katherine Ormerod, Laura Bates and Sophia Thakur.
Thank you for putting so much time and effort into helping aspiring writers... The dream to one day write my own book is something I have decided to not ignore any longer. First thing I did? Sign up to your newsletter. It does not disappoint!
I've just started working on my synopsis - those creative writing BA lessons finally being put to good use - and so I hope I have enough to send over and apply for this grant. I have been published before online, however, never fiction and so I just wanted to check I still qualify?
Abigail I love what you are doing here. I am a struggling writer from a working class background who has been juggling four part time jobs while studying for an MA in Creative Writing this year. I’m also over 50. I’m about to write my dissertation this summer and a grant would make a massive difference so I will be applying!!