Where to begin?
Firstly, to state that I’m an author, that I’m neither rich nor famous and probably never will be – but I don’t think that those things are integral to the definition of a writer or author. Hmm… maybe we need some differentiation, here. So:
A writer is someone who strings letters together to make words, and words together to make sentences in such a way as to impart an idea, a concept, an opinion (note I avoid the word truth). An author is someone who does exactly the same thing but whose work is read and responded to by people outside of the author’s nearest and dearest. And a good author is one who actually takes the time to understand not only the subject of their work, but the mechanics of the art of writing. In other words, they embrace and impart Quality (with a capital Kwuh).
Secondly, to state that I love writing. Writing is absolutely the most important thing in my life – apart from: kids, wife, washing, ironing, vacuuming, sleeping, driving to work, being at work, driving from work, snatching a bite to eat, and maybe a wee nip at the end of the day.
Thirdly, to state that writing currently occupies the smallest part of my time (if you hadn’t already guessed). In any one month I can expect to be scribbling for ten, maybe twelve hours at most because the business of earning a living and supporting those around me has to take precedence. So writing is really little more than a pastime and yet… it’s so much more than just a hobby.
You see, without writing I doubt I’d remain sane enough to actually engage in all those activities with which life insists I must be involved. Putting the metaphorical pen to paper (reality: pressing keys on the keypad of my laptop because my handwriting is so appalling) is my desperate escape from the moribund and mortal to the animated and enduring.
Fourthly, to state that to earn my living as an author is my dream. Everyone’s got to have a dream, something to strive for, a distant nirvana where success and happiness go hand-in-hand. Maybe when I retire…
But, I hasten to add, I’m not content to simply moan about my lot, to wallow in the flux of sullenness or languish in seas of irritation at the success of others, and complain about how unfair life is. Oh no. Limited though my free time is, I do as much as I can towards reaching my goal. To date I’ve published several short stories, a rather quirky and experimental novel (a marmite experience: you either love it or hate it), and an adventure book for kids aged around 10 to 12. All available through your neighbourhood South American river.
If I discount the writings of childhood, my first foray into book writing was when I was in my fifties (from which you may deduce that I no longer am). I wrote a book called PRISM Exiles, intended as the first part of a trilogy, 200,000-plus words long, together with a separate appendix that was itself about 100,000 words long (I think, I’ve lost the drafts for that so I’m not sure). I actually self-published PRISM though Lulu, convinced that what I’d written was blockbuster quality. Needless to say, it wasn’t.
At around that time a colleague (Tim Taylor, more of him in a bit) at work told me he was a writer, too, and he introduced me to the Northampton Science Fiction Writers Group (NSFWG). I signed up to attend workshop meetings every month for a princely £10.00 annual subscription fee and joining was the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I met some great people with a variety of writing skills and experience, from newbies like me to giants like internationally acclaimed Ian Watson and Ian Whates. I learned a huge amount about what authorship was all about. Each month we (still) take turns to submit a short piece which the rest of the group critique. Nothing and no one is spared and everything is examined under a microscope of forensic quality. The first piece I submitted was the first chapter of PRISM – and shortly afterwards I pulled the book from Lulu with the firm intent that, one day, I would rewrite it the way it should have been written in the first place.
That’s still my intent, but I’ve no idea when I’ll get around to it. Maybe when I retire…
My first real success was a shorty called The Tower, included in the anthology Shoes, Ships and Cadavers: Tales from North Londonshire (published by Ian Whates through NewCon Press). The story was a simple one, about what might happen when you die, and was the second piece I submitted to the NSFWG. This was followed by other shorts: Waif, The Cookie Tin, Ferryman, Badger’s Waddle, and others. Waif (another experimental work, where I didn’t bother to give characters proper names) has been my most successful work to date, published by my good friend Tim Taylor (author of the amazingly successful Human Legion series) through Greyhart Press.
Most recently I’ve self-published The Scrapdragon, a fantasy adventure novel for youngsters aged 10 and up (though quite suitable for any age group, really), and I’m currently working on a Gothic-style book called Shun House, not suitable for kids, a follow-up to Waif that deals with adult themes such as murder and torture. I still have a few chapters to go, (plus the dreaded read-through & re-write) before that gets released, possibly towards the end of this year, more likely next.
If I was asked for one piece of advice to give to anyone who is considering writing a book, it would have to be: go find and join a writer’s group. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re a natural (like I thought when I wrote PRISM) and that success must inevitably follow. Find a group and learn your craft from people who’ve already trodden the path you’re contemplating. I promise it will be well worth it.
Click here to read other authors journeys.