August 2015

It ended with a low moan of relief, rather than a shout of joy and a hurling of papers in the air. Yes, I have done it. A complete draft of the second book in The Darkest Trilogy has been written! (I never thought I'd see the day - and if you've been following these monthly reports, I suspect neither did you!) Finishing a novel - or at least a draft for your agent to read, tear apart and hand back to you with 'Must try harder' written across the top - is a peculiar experience. Whilst you have moments of euphoria and joy, occasional tightening of the guts and that rare but delightful sensation when something emboldening trickles out of your brain and floods into your heart as you write, writing a novel is a slog. A long hard slog, much like climbing a mountain. Everyday you set off, your eye always on the summit, but your focus on the next camp ahead. You have good days when you make tremendous progress, almost sauntering along and you have terrible days, when you get blown off the mountain and have to haul your way back onto the path. (Let me tell you, when my software corrupted and mashed my entire, non-backed-up manuscript, into a ball of chopped and busted words, that was an avalanche which hit me that day on the mountainside!) And if and when you get to the very top, you look about about yourself exhausted, admiring the view and think, "Crikey, that was a long way! What next?", too tired to really contemplate doing anything. Only, of course, in my analogy, I am more at camp halfway up the mountain, rather than at the summit, because from here I get my agent's edits back, rework the manuscript accordingly, go back to the agent with another draft, then off to the publisher (hopefully), then more edits, and then … then I start on book three! But we're not thinking about that at the moment. At the moment, as I write this, I am thinking about cold beer, behaving badly, reintroducing myself into my family again. Being a normal human being for the first time in nearly a year. Novels are hard work, but that's why it feels such an achievement to complete one. I've written three now, including The Fallen which is the name of my latest, and with each one I am learning a little bit more about myself, about writing, about pace, characters, and hopefully improving each time as well. Writing novels comes at a cost, to health (both mental and physical health), materially and with those around you. On my Facebook account, I tried to succinctly capture what writing this latest book cost me. It pretty much sums it up. "So 11 months, 7 rewrites and false starts, four bumper black ink cartridges, 2 printers, 2,220 sheets of A4, 2 chairs, least a hundred more grey hairs, chest pains, bags under my eyes, a stoop, tears, self-harming, a pitiful weekend away in Weymouth, 128 2 litre bottles of sparkling water, crates of beer and wine, whiskey and whisky, sleepless nights too many to number, writing sessions at 3am, writing sessions at midnight, more coffee than the annual output of Brazil, more tea than all of Sri Lanka produced in the noughties, an ink pen, a sharpie pen, my nails, my sanity, my children's holidays and birthdays, nights too many without my wife, and a million plus words condensed down to 104,000, I have finally submitted a draft of The Fallen to my literary agent." As my friend and fellow author Russell Mardell said, "Why do we keep doing it? It's either an addiction, therapy, stupidity or masochism. Likely all of them." And I think he's right. But right now I'm off to the funny farm, with a beer in my hand.

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