I have now reached that point in the year where I have managed to stumble and fall through the world of a writer for four months. As I sit here and look back at it, I feel that I have been on a bit of roller coaster ride, which has taken me at huge speed into the sharpest learning curve of my life.
I smile at times when people talk, and they really do think its so easy to just sit and write. They have that, “it’s not that hard matey” look, as they talk and I sit here thinking back, I can only say that I have possibly worked harder and longer in the last six months than ever before. Quite a statement considering I have worked in horticulture for most of my working life. To throw a little light on my life as a writer I will fill you all in on what it is exactly that I do, once again I will take the opt out clause of stating clearly, this is how I write, I cannot speak for others.
I began many years back with an idea for my story, I actually have a pile of ideas, as I do keep a note pad handy at all times. The brain is never switched off, and ticks away 24/7. Once the idea was set I began to write down all my ideas related to what I thought the story could contain, please take into account this was a very long process that lasted years, and consumed 100′s of pads. The notes were vast and included such things as characters, places, types of magic, evil acts etc…
Once you have this cabinet of information filled with everything you think may be required, then its the task of sorting it into what appears to be a smooth flowing order. In my particular case this also included having to write a whole past history, so that in the current books, references could be made that were realistic and believable, and most importantly consistent. My books begin in the year of 2038, after a worldwide disaster in the year 2012, and relate all the way back to the year of AD421, see what I mean about a history? I have a full account written on around 1000 files that chart the history of every character from AD421, right up until the year the books begin. Its a lot of work, and also because I have played around with historical facts, I have had to spend thousands of hours reading history books and searching the net, to ensure that the facts, albeit slightly blurred, are still very credible. I have to admit that for myself its been a wonderful experience, I never actually intended to publish this story, it was just me playing around and having fun. I know, I should have gone out more, but hey, I am a little geeky and yes this is my thing.
Having established the notes and the facts, which I have been doing off and on for 15 years at least, in 2007 I began to write. I have now spent two years of my life writing and improving none stop as I create the series Heirs to the kingdom. Once again it has been a joy to do, it was incredible fun to see the readers group I worked with in the earlier days, as they got into the characters and digested the story, and although it was not the easiest thing in the world to achieve, getting book one finally published was indeed a very wonderful moment. I would at this point offer a word of advice. never try to publish a book whilst building a web site, just after having a new baby and working around 19 hours a day.I did and I was stretched to the point of exhaustion and confusion, so much so the first file I sent to the printer was indeed the wrong one. A book with errors is the kiss of death, one I am hoping to survive.
All writers make mistakes, hell I have made many, but the critics are a beast of huge power, who will hunt you down and kill you dead. I noticed my mistake and very quickly updated the file, but believe me these savage beasts of morals and high self importance, smell writer blood across the Internet like a wild bush fire. I have to say the least, had my share of attacks, but bugger them! I was knackered at the time and made a daft mistake, which I have worked very hard indeed to sort out and correct. Something that did amuse me, was the fact that those who decided to try and chew me up and spit me out did not show up on any author search done across the entire net. I wonder are these self appointed standard bearers of snobbery and literary credibility, just a bunch of failed want to be writers, who have not the spine to endure the kind of behaviour they themselves dish out with relish? mmm me thinks so. I pay them no heed, those who want to read what I write, are my only focus, so let them vent their spleens all they like, I could care not one jot. If just a small hand-full of people read my work and escape their lives for just a small time, as a writer I am happy and will smile.
The writing for myself is fast. I sit at the computer armed with notes and research, and my mind filled with endless possibilities, and out it all tumbles. Most of the time I am only vaguely aware of the words as they hit the screen, as my mind races at least three or four lines ahead of what I can see, and my fingers do their best to catch up. the result of the session is one of exhaustion, as I hold all the key factors in my mind as I weave the story together. It does require huge amounts of concentration and a large degree of silence, but when it is done and I sit back to view another chapter, although very tired, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment and actually feel really chuffed. It is at this point I collapse into bed and fall into the sleep of the dead as my mind shuts down to recover and recharge for the next intense bout.
The following day armed with copious amounts of coffee and cigarettes, I sit and read through the first draft. I think my old English teacher would scream with fright if she read it, it has many mistakes, but that all important text in its crudest form is there, and so begins the process of improvement. It is in this phase of the writing that the story is checked and double checked, as I ensure it all is in sync with everything else written. This is actually the longest part of writing the chapter, and I can do anything up to 100 edits on each chapter as it is read time and time again as I tweak it to fit with the rest of the work as a whole. I save each chapter as a single file, and it is only when I have written everything, that I finally cut all the chapters together and view the new book for the first time.
The following is usually months after writing the very first lines of the book, and it is now the time when I sit and give the book its first full reading. Every line has to be checked, and it is here I do more trimming and add more detail if it is required. Once I have completed the process, I hand it over to one of my proof readers, and they begin again with their highlighters noting their points and spotting any errors not caught by myself. Proof reading is boring, the book is not just given one reading, I have read every book I have written over fifty times, and spotted a mistake or error every time. People do not realise how hard it is, you have to note, that I know the story backwards. There are no surprises in the story for me, as I wrote them, and like it or not, it is a chore to read again and again, because I do know whats coming and I hold my hands up and say very clearly, its as boring as hell and yes, I lose concentration and miss bits. The book is returned from the proof reader covered in little yellow patches and I once again start the endless process of correction, I read it all again, and guess what? Yes, he dances with delight, I found some bits the proof reader missed, Yay! the joys of being human, Its a wonderful feeling to see we are all the same under the skin, well except the critics of course, they know how perfect they are?
The very simple facts are hard at first to believe. I began HTTK back in the mid eighties, and today in the year of our lord 2009, I am still at it with some way to go. I have spent almost three years writing the same story as a series and although I am a lot further ahead of what is being published at the moment, I am still reading the books over and over. I began with the first book and have written them back to back with very few breaks since I first started, that is almost three years of none stop writing, I am still working on the most recent book, and at the same time reading book two for about the millionth time to ensure as I approach the date for sending it to the publisher it is a spot on as is humanly possible. The weird thing is, it will still have a typo or two in it, that is the wonder of the world of humanity.
You now have some idea of my working approach to writing, and I do know that this is similar to some of my friends who write. The wonderful thing that does amaze many, and is the strangest fact of all is. That out of the huge amounts of money passing through book sales every day, your average writer gets paid just £0.50 for each book they sell. All that work comes down to just one half of an English pound for a copy of the book sold, not even enough to purchase a loaf of bread. Most writers seldom make more than two thousand English pounds on a book, it is a very small handful of writers who actually make a good living out of it, so why do we do it?
I can only respond buy saying that for me, the whole process caters to some deep internal need. I need to write, I need the process of putting words on to paper in my life, I do not need to publish, and to be honest 98% of what I have written will possibly never see the light of day. I was encouraged to share HTTK with the world, I actually am still torn about whether I should have done it? Being published is hard work, its emotional and stressful, and It does not sit well with me, but I listened to those around me who wanted to see my work in print and its now out there. I started and so I will finish, but will I continue to publish? That is a question for now I cannot answer, I will most certainly continue to write, I suppose once HTTK the whole series is out there, I will decide. Until such time I will continue to share my thoughts and experiences with the rest of the world, via my blog. Until my next post enjoy whatever you are reading at the moment, and if you spot a typo, smile, they have done everything possible, but it got through.