Writing a book is harder than I first anticipated. When I was a teenager, I found myself reading pulp science-fiction novels and thinking, “Blimey, I can do better than this.” With the over-confidence that only a teenager can have.
Fast-forward to my early 20s and I am the proud owner of my very first laptop and a desire to turn my vague thoughts about writing into something more professional. So, I began writing my very first manuscript, a thriller based on MI5 – it was around the early series of Spooks, the BBC drama, and I was rather inspired.
So I ended up with this manuscript, but when I submitted the first draft – the first draft, what the hell was I thinking? – to agents, I was roundly rejected. Rejected, I tell you! But that was for a very good reason; that manuscript, you see, was absolutely terrible. It really was; it was far too rough around the edges and floating on the eddies on a well-explored font of ideas already. There was nothing truly original about the storyline, I’m afraid to say, and I hadn’t fully found my voice as yet – although that was the first time I was able to chrystalise what I wanted my fictional voice to be.
I then went back to the drawing board and thought again; what did I really want to write about? Well, I’m something of a science fiction and fantasy geek, I don’t mind telling you, and that was what I was interested in writing about. I know the genre, I like to think, like Barbara Cartland knows the romance genre, and Barbara Cartland I ain’t – thank heavens, the dresses wouldn’t fit and I doubt the make-up would look very good on me.
So, I started to write a fantasy book in the latter part of my 20s, my mind working overtime until I’d created some characters who truly meant something to me and were – I realised later – actually reflections of my own personality. That meant I was writing from experience on that side of things, and then my imagination did the rest – I gave it free reign to think about what could happen if … I’ve always liked the “what ifs” in life, not matter how fantastical they are.
And then I found a publisher. That sentence makes it all seem so easy, doesn’t it, but it really wasn’t. I had to really open my mind to a new way of thinking; the big publishers were able to be incredibly choosy from the thousands of manuscripts that came through their posttrays and email inboxes every day. So, could the small publishers, but in many ways the small publishers were more willing to take a chance on unknown authors with a desire to improve and learn the craft where they were a little rusty.
And whilst I was rusty, I was also very willing to learn and improve. When I was accepted as the second-ever signed writer with Inspired Quill, I was sitting in a window seat of Broadstairs’ Cafe Bello (now sadly closed) and exclaimed with pure joy.
However, that was just the start of the entire process; from signing the contract to publication was an intense process of three rounds of editing, marketing, cover design, and everything in between. There’s too much to pack into this particular column, but trust me it was hard work; however, when I held that first edition in my hand – with my publisher and editor sat either side of me – then it was all worthwhile.
Believe me, it’s a feeling like no other.