How I Became An Author: Sarah Forbes
Sarah Forbes was born in Aberdeen and currently lives in Edinburgh. She used to work on magazines, interviewing pop stars for a living, but now she works as an editor, helping other writers to create their own stories.
Sarah was previously fiction editor at Scholastic Children’s Books. Her debut novel, Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs (Stripes) is the first adventure featuring the fabulous Elspeth Hart, a modern heroine with doodles on her trainers and unstoppable determination.
Follow Sarah on Twitter @sfssong.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Really early on, probably as soon as I understood the concept of working for a living! I have a vivid memory of being told to sit in a corner facing the wall at primary school when I was about eight, as punishment for distracting other pupils; I’d made and written dozens of tiny books and brought them in so other kids could borrow them. This may seem slightly weird, but I often speak to writers now who talk about making little books from a very young age: it seems to be a phase a lot of us went through!
When [my agent] emailed to tell me we had an offer from Stripes, I was dazed. It had finally happened. My eight-year-old self was in shock.
Did you have an agent before you got your first publishing deal or did you get one after?
Before. I don’t think I’d be published without my agent! I sent an early draft of my book to Jenny Savill at Nurnberg Associates who gave me lots of good advice, helped me redraft the story and agreed to represent me. Then the book went out on submission, and the waiting to hear back seemed like it lasted forever. When Jenny emailed to tell me we had an offer from Stripes, I was dazed. It had finally happened. My eight-year-old self was in shock.
Can you tell us about some of your writing habits?
My best tip for writing is to find a place that is totally quiet (some people like the buzz of a coffee shop, but this is bad for me as I am a chronic eavesdropper, even when I don’t mean to eavesdrop. I’m not nosy, honest -- I’m just interested). Find silence and NO INTERNET CONNECTION and just set yourself 20-minute sprints, with a wander or a coffee or a stretch in between. You can do loads in two hours if you just focus.
Do you think it’s possible to hold down a full time job and to become a writer?
Yes! Don’t let anyone tell you can’t write novels and work full time. Of course you can. Most writers have to work as well as write, even if they’d secretly like to have a shed at the bottom of the garden and spend full days in it mooching around drinking coffee and choosing the perfect adjective. I am very lucky to have a day job I love, editing other people’s books and copywriting. Sometimes my writing can fit around it, other times writing has to happen in the evenings or weekends.
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers what would it be?
Read lots. If you write for kids it helps a lot if you have a good sense of how old your readers are, because it affects everything: your word choice, plotting, themes, etc. Aside from that, just keep going, no matter how disheartened you may feel. As the saying goes: the only difference between an unpublished writer and a published one is that the published one didn’t give up. I sometimes offer writing advice on The Lighthouse blog for anyone who wants to read a bit more about the publishing process.
Read more blogs in the How I Became an Author series.
Looking for tips on becoming a published author yourself? Check out Sarah's blogs on How to Get Agents and Publishers to Read Your Book and 5 Quick Fixes for Your Writing