First key depression to first impression

I started my writing on a course at the Writing School Leicester. To mark the occasion of my first book launch (27th Jul 2014 – yay!) they asked me to write a blog entry on the journey from starting in their workshop to publication. Here below is a copy of it!

Getting my first novel published was one of the more unexpected things to have ever happened to me. It was a book that I set out on writing to learn how to write. Despite several large scientific reports to my name, I had not written a word of fiction since a short pastiche of 1984 I created as part of my English GCSE, [cough-cough] years ago. However, from writing (and re-writing and re-re-writing) the first sentence on 14th September 2011, it was an incredible and oft-times arduous journey that finally brought me to the launch date on 27th July 2014.

I have been making up stories set in my fictional “universe” since I was about five. These have been refined over the years until I had novel plots set in my mind. I would talk extensively to my wife about them and she kept saying I should try it. Then a confluence of events occurred. First I got paid to write an article in a science magazine. Then I heard a successful playwright interviewed on Radio4 who used to be a girl in my English GCSE class, giving feelings of “well, if she can do it…” But mostly it was my wife just telling me to shut up and get on with it, buying me a course at Writing School Leicester for my birthday in the process.

The day after attending the first of Rod Duncan’s ‘Writing a Novel’ workshops is when I began. The first sentence was truly terrifying but things started to flow after about 10 minutes. The atmosphere in the workshops was so friendly and relaxed that I had no real fear of writing low quality material and I knew that the feedback I received there would improve it. I also learned as much by listening to the other writers and thinking about what was good and bad about their work. Having said that, as someone not prone to stage fright, I found reading aloud my own work to others for the first time a terrifying experience. It has got better over the years.

I promised myself early on that I would always take some original work to the workshop every week, whether I would get to read it or not. It was only this that gave me the discipline to keep going and there was rarely a week when I didn’t produce at least a thousand words. By the end of the course in June 2012, I only had about a quarter of the book left to write and so found the impetus to keep going. I finished the first draft almost exactly a year after starting.

For the next three months I edited it extensively myself before handing it to three “cold-readers”. I nervously awaited their feedback over Christmas and in January 2013 I had it – and it was good! A further personal edit took me to February and then I sent the work off to seven agents and started waiting.

And waiting.

To cut a long story short, most rejected it but one of them asked to see the full manuscript. This was so exciting that I accidentally bought a dog (that’s another story) but after reading it all, he also said no. But by then I had received a publishing deal from a small, independent publisher, called Inspired Quill. They gave me a 10-month schedule from then until publication date and so started another set of edits. First a general one, then one by a harsh professional who gave me one brief compliment, followed by five pages of criticism. That was very much an opportunity to grow as a writer and hone the thick skin I had been cultivating up to that point. There was a proof edit and lots of to-ing and fro-ing on the cover, blurb, font (I kid you not) and style issues.

And so we reach now. I have a stack of paperback copies in front of me, ready for the local launch 1,047 days since I first put finger to keyboard. The Kindle and Kobo formats are ready to go. I can find it for sale on Waterstones, Amazon, Blackwells and even Foyles. And in August we’re going to WorldCon in London – the World’s science fiction convention. I’m so glad my wife signed me up to the first workshop.

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