July 2015

So in June I joined a writing club. Well, a mate (who's read The Damned) suggested I join it (should I be reading anything into that?!) and my experience of people who hang around books is that they're almost always good people. It's the first writing club I have ever joined, which seems rather back to front, in that I suppose you're meant to join a writing club in the hope of it helping you get a publishing deal, not the other way around. But writing is a lonely business, and unless you surround yourself with writers and critics on a daily basis, which I don't tend to do (plenty of critics from family members mind!), the natural human reaction is to do what mankind does as a whole and become stuck in a rut. I'll admit that it felt rather peculiar going back to school, wandering in like the new kid and finding a desk amongst the rows, taking out my jotter and writing my name at the top of a new page. (I didn't do that really, but I did write the date and underlined it too). And then doing literary exercises; reading a passage of published text and from it identifying its strengths and weaknesses, creating our own character descriptions and mannerisms, all of which we then discussed at great length. The marvellous Salisbury writing circle I attended is run by the talented and brilliant Tom Bromley (you can read all about him here - http://www.tombromley.co.uk/) who made me feel very much at home, as he did the other 30 or so writers in the room, advancing our appreciation and application to writing with his searing insight and astute considerations as to what constitutes good writing. We discussed the qualities of the novel 'We are completely beside ourselves' and picked holes in '50 shades' (bless it) for its continued use of raised eyebrows, at which point I realised how much I relied on my own characters 'rolling their eyes' and thought, "Jeez, I really need to up my game here." And that's the beauty of sharing and discussing literature with people. Sticking your head above the parapet and chatting to other fellow writers gives you that shot in the arm, after having spent so long alone in your bunker, stripped to your underpants and writing feverishly, sweat dripping down your neck, one eye on the clock, one on your manuscript, hoping, praying that you reach a conclusion to the chapter you're working which tightens the heart chambers and shivers the spine. It was a Wednesday evening well spent. And the beer afterwards tasted good too. Back to the torture chamber then, aka my office, and to Book Two, The Fallen, with a bump. It's still a mess, but I am now daring to call it a beautiful mess, and from out of the months of struggle, between the lines of pained prose, I am starting to see something appear which I am becoming quite proud. Only now, well advanced with it, am I beginning to I understand why it's been such a struggle. The second book's got an awful lot in it, a lot of characters, a load of intertwining story lines, a hell of a lot of action and, quite frankly, has been a daunting and challenging task to write. But the wheels are turning, the planets are aligning and I am now beginning to believe. The other night I wrote the best chapter of the book so far and the end is beginning to twinkle on the horizon. I am starting to get excited. When I do poke my head up over the battlements, I snatch brief messages from Duckworth, my publisher, about the fantastic first month sales for The Damned and rumours about a 2nd print run on its way. This all sounds very good, but I approach getting published and life after getting published with the same inane look and easy attitude I've adopted most of my life. I've set myself no goals or expectations, so anything will be a bonus! The reaction to The Damned has largely been very positive indeed. There's been a couple of blips along the way which have rankled briefly, but I've since worked the pins deep into the voodoo dolls and can laugh now about the more unfavourable reviews. I've realised that The Damned is punchy novel. There's no middle ground. It's marmite. You either love it or hate it, which was what I thought it would be when I first wrote it. It's at times a demanding book and doesn't pull its punches. It's also foxed just a few people who've entirely misunderstood what it is and what it is trying to say. But life is a circus and full of clowns. I always knew getting published would just be half the job. It's all very well having written this life's work, but just because you think it's good doesn't mean anyone is going to come looking for it and say nice things about it. As a writer I am learning you need to do an awful lot of the publicity yourself. Book bloggers, press, friends, relatives, they all need buttering up to help spread the world of your work. You think you write a book and everyone will want a piece of it but the opposite is in fact true. No one wants your book and you have to work even harder than you did when writing it to convince them as to why they should want it. After all, everyone has a book in them, so why should they read yours? It's been a fascinating journey and all the more exciting to know I still have a long way left to go. Goodness, I've learn so much and am still learning. I want to be the very best I can be and that will take application, dedication and an awful lot of hard work. I suppose I better keep attending class then.

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