It’s been said before many times, writing is not easy. You often hear stories about one hit wonders who write one great book, praised to the skies and then disappear without a trace. Ann Cleeves is not one of these.
When I came across her Shetland series couple of years ago, I was pretty late to the game. Ann has been writing and being published for most of my life (sorry Ann) and achieved the Holy Grail of Writing – seeing two series of books adapted for television (Vera and Shetland). What she has taught me is longevity and consistency. The secret to having a great career as a writer is to write a good book, and follow it with another, then another then another. This is no mean feat but Ann does it with great skill.
She’s taught me that you need to keep producing material on a regular basis, but not just any material, good material. Ann has an army of followers who have expectations of her, and I don’t know about anyone else, but she never disappoints me. That is the secret to longevity; the quality of the content as well as the quantity. Ann also demonstrates the benefit of writing a series, of creating characters who may not always be appealing – I’m thinking of the description of Vera – but you love them nonetheless. Vera may not be glamorous but I’d rather have her solving my murder than anyone else because she works hard and gets the job done. It can’t have been easy for Ann to keep going all these years, constantly coming up with new fresh ideas, but if you love the job you do it makes all the hard work worthwhile.
What I want is a career as a writer. I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder who is never heard of again after my first novel; I want a long successful career like Ann’s. So, thanks Ann for teaching me that this career must be built on quality work produced consistently. It’s a lesson I hope to put into practice with my own work.