It was an accident Officer!

I've read several author interviews recently where the writer claims to have fallen into writing by accident, conjuring images of them lurching around looking dazed having produced a masterpiece without noticing. Can this really happen?

Maeve Binchy apparently used to write letters home from a kibbutz in Israel to reassure her parents that she was still alive, and they sent them off to a newspaper because they were so good, sparking a successful career.

Jane Harris started writing a short story about an ex-boyfriend who happened to be a transvestite, to amuse herself while living in Portugal in the early Nineties, as there was no TV, books or money. Sparking a successful career.

Susan E Philips and her best friend decided one day - just for fun - to write a book together. After some months they apparently worked out a system. Sparking a successful career.

Catherine Spencer fell into writing as she approached the menopause, ready for a change of career, and after eavesdropping on a conversation about writing for Harlequin decided it was too good a challenge to pass up. Sparking .... you get the drift.

I don't completely believe these cases are accidental though. I suspect writing's not something you fall into unless you already have the urge.

Am I wrong?


Anna said…
well... mine happened by accident. eldest daughter twisted my arm to do NANO in 2006, and the rest is...

well, you know. but...

I've been faffing about with writing for AGES, and she knew that, and just made me do soemthing about it.

a bit of both perhaps? either way, now it's more than a hobby, not quite a job.

not a PAID job, that is... :)))
Hi, Karen! Just dropping in on you!
Amanda said…
My accident spurred me to write seriously - nope not the same thing at all is it? x
SpiralSkies said…
I suppose that, even if you become serious about it by accident, you still have to have talent to make it viable. Maybe becoming successful by accident can happen as it does all seem to be such a lot of luck chucked in with the talent & perspiration.

But nobody actually writes by accident. Do they?
Debs said…
I think you have to want to write a book, but getting it published is what needs the luck, and I suppose that can happen by accident.
Jan Jones said…
No - I don't believe people can write by accident (apart from my mother, who wrote large cheques to posh-armchair salesmen without meaning to).

You might need a nudge into the actual event that gets you launched into full(ish) time scribbling, but you have to have been a storyteller before that.

But as for this - "oh, goodness me, I lost concentration for a moment and now I've written a best seller". Nah. Not a chance.
JJ Beattie said…
Oh if only it were that easy!

Why is it there are all these people becoming writers by accident, whereas my mishaps only involve getting fatter by accident, bashing my arm on the fence by mistake, having too many drinks and losing my contact lenses by accident?

What exactly am I doing wrong?
Tam said…
Erm...I'd suspect there are a lot of people who haven't become writers by accident - those who started for similar reasons but didn't have the talent/lost the impetus/accidentally started something else.

I suppose I could say I accidentally started writing after I accidentally ordered Wannabe a Writer? from Amazon. But the truth is I've wanted to write since I was five years old, I just didn't listen to the urge until last year. I imagine all those successul authors are the same (not that I'm claiming to be one of them, you understand).
Dumdad said…
I think Jan Jones is absolutely right although we all wish we could "accidentally" churn out a bestseller...

... "I was sitting at my desk minding my own business, looking out of the window, sort of doodling with my pen and when I looked down I found I'd written a blockbuster! Random House bought it for £5 miilion and Spielberg has won the filming rights..."

Word veri: andpigscanfly
Fiona said…
I am very accident prone. Do you think if I said a sucessful writer nudged me and I fell over and got whiplash - natch - and she made her agent take me on to stop me suing her, that would work?
Suzanne said…
So that's where I've been going wrong all these years - trying too hard. I should have just let it happen by accident.

I suppose these accidental success stories all make for good publicity though.
HelenMHunt said…
I must say it doesn't feel very accidental at the moment. If only ...
Honeysuckle said…
Hmmm, well, I suppose writing's one of those arty things you can claim to have 'fallen into' simply because you don't need to take an exam before you're allowed to do it. You just try your hand and if you're good and you enjoy it, you're away. On the other hand, no one claims to 'fall into' brain surgery because you have to take positive, academic steps to become a surgeon. (Thank goodness, eh?)
Lily Sheehan said…
I agree, I kind of fell into it but I always wanted to write. I thought a career into journalism was the only way for me but then I came across the novel racers and discoverd I wasn't the only one wanting to write fiction
Lily Sheehan said…
*discovered - sorry not eaten yet and have lost the ability to spell!
Lane said…
Hhm.... do you think we could accidently get an agent too? And a three book deal?
Maybe we could accidentally get a column in The Times whilst we're at it?:-)
It's a lovely romantic ideal and given the housands of ways that people fall into new careers then perhaps a small amount just get pretty lucky! Like chef's that suddenly realise they can cook - I suspect though, what makes the difference is the old adage - the harder you work, the luckier you get.
When I fell over in the sreet the other week, that was an accident. I think that you can get lucky and be in the right place at the right time but most of it is down to hard work. Wouldn't it be nice if life were that easy though.
Queenie said…
Writers write all sorts of stories, including stories about how they became writers. These 'accident' stories are far more interesting and glamorous than the kind of story that goes: well, I wrote half an hour a night after the kids were in bed, and after seven years I sold a short story, and by that time I had writer's bottom so I thought I might as well carry on, and five years after that I got an agent...
Calistro said…
I can add another one. Lisa Jewell was on holiday with some friend when one of them bet her she couldn't write a novel (or write a novel in X number of months), so she did.

I've been writing on and off my whole life (bad poetry for a good part of it in my late teens/early twenties!) though it was the death of a friend that made me, finally, finish a novel.
KatW said…
I wish I could accidently fall into a publishing contract. That would be after I accidently catch the virus 'extreme talent'.

I would think most people have the urge to write and a deep passion for it.

To think such talented people could just trip over and into a successful writing career is a little bit scary for those of us who try so hard and for so long!

Kat :-)
KAREN said…
anna - One day it will be a paid job though :o))

bfs - Hi there!

amanda - 40 looming was my big push, but it had been hovering in the background for years :o)

spiralskies - Becoming successful by accident is something I can accept, but writing by accident? Nope, not really!

debs - I should have married a publisher really!

jan jones - Ooh my friend's mother was a one for sending money off for dubious 'gift' offers in Sunday supplements!

Nudging yes, definitely, but the urge has got to be there already I reckon :o)

jj - It does sound alarmingly simple doesn't it? I don't have lucky accidents like that either!

tam - I think you're probably right there! Persistence is the key, though luck sometimes plays a part I suppose.

dumdad - LOL!

Maybe there's a story in there somewhere ...

fiona - It's definitely worth a try!!

suzanne - You're right, it does make a good - if somewhat unbelieveable - story :o)

helenmh - Sometimes I accidentally churn out a really good sentence - not often enough though!

honeysuckle - I hadn't thought of it like that. I suppose someone could give it a go one day and discover they have a talent for it. (That would be annoying!)

lily - I think a lot of fiction writers started out as journalists - it must be good practice :o)

lane - That would be one hell of a brilliant accident! If only ...

I'd settle for accidentally finishing my novel at the moment :o)

mob - Very wise words - persistence is the key :o)

gonna be a writer - It would be very nice indeed, but you're right it's hard work that makes it happen ultimately. Unless you happen to be married to a publisher perhaps ...

queenie - Yes I see what you mean, the reality isn't quite as interesting!!

calistro - Oh yes I've read that before about Lisa Jewell, I'd forgotten that one. How bloomin' annoying! I do like her books though and can't believe she hadn't at least 'dabbled' before!

katw - Maybe it's a case of being in the right place and the right time, but there has to be talent there too. I'd like to catch that virus as well!!