After twenty years of spasmodically learning my craft, last Sunday - August 8th - saw a huge, psychological milestone reached for little old me... the completion of the crime novel, I'd tentatively started in early 2007. BUT, the 'journey' wasn't without its 'moments'... 89,300 words of sweat, tears, tantrums and turmoil!
A year later, I hit a brick wall, plot-wise, at 41,000 words. Dispirited, frustrated and doubting I had the stamina to write a novel, I left it for a while.
Around April 2008, I began a second novel that had been pecking to be created for months. It included many of the same characters as my first attempt, but was set some years later. My enthusiasm for this story was boundless... initially.
As the 41,000 word milestone loomed, I began to encounter similar problems... stamina and enthusiasm fading, as I struggled, 'head-poppingly', with plot... again!
In August 2008 my great friend, thriller writer Matt Hilton, suggested I start a blog, post some short stories - I had loads of ideas for them - and get some feedback. So I took an audibly deep breath and took Matt's advice, thinking, But I've only ever shown my writing to me pets n me mum before now...eeek! However, positive feedback spurred me on, keeping the dream alive. Maybe I could write, after all... but could I write a novel?
In a eureka moment, in early 2009 , I decided I could merge the two 'half-novels' together. This was very tricky, but I managed it... well, sort of. Chopping and cutting, re-writing and editing, until I had a mishmash of 70-odd thousand words... but, alas, it still wasn't right.
There was a point where, despite my tenacity and ambition - or because of it? - I had to pull away from it all, as it was becoming too much. But that's when you know who your friends are, right? Many offered encouragement and I'm truly thankful, but there were four in particular, who have been constant throughout, and had more faith in me than I probably had myself... my brother, Dek, Dave Barber, Lee Hughes and Matt Hilton - cheers, lads!
A couple of trusted friends gave me feedback, and liked it (but they would, I hear you say!). By this stage, my confidence was up, due to having successes with numerous short stories accepted for e-zines, plus a few online competition wins, and even bagging slots in three anthologies. However, two other factors, in keeping me upbeat and focussed, were crucial too. The growing success of Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, whereby I read and edited many top notch stories, and had contact with some really talented writers. Plus, the online writers' group, Writers' News Talkback, where I found, not only encouragement in abundance, but also many genuine friends.
Obviously, the followers and commenters (except the Chinese porn trolls) on this blog have been a Godsend as well.
So, in summary, the writing community within the blogosphere kept me going, and pushed me that extra mile. Well, that, and the fact I'm a stubborn old git! :)
And so, I kept my head down, between work, the kids, and life, rattling the keyboard and, after much turmoil, the result is... proof, to myself more than anyone, that I do have the stamina to complete a novel.
This is sounding like an acceptance speech at the Oscars, and I've done nothing yet! But it's a really big deal, to me, getting to this point, after looking like it was impossible. I have high hopes for this book. I'd say it's a third draft, but in reality it's probably a sixth or seventh draft. No doubt, there'll be more tweaking to do in the future, too.
And, yes, someone is currently reading it... and it's not me mum! Can't say anything yet, in case it goes tits up, but watch this space...
Ps. I'm still undecided on the title, so feel free to vote on your favourite, top right.