45 days. That was how long it took me to write the first draft of my novel, ‘The Boss.’ In those early days I wrote like my laptop was on fire, letting my characters loose and chasing them to end of every page. Just over 84,000 words later and my story was done.
There it was. My novel! 384 shiny white pages safely ensconced inside the confines of my old, temperamental laptop.
So, what to do next?
Nothing of course. It was finished! (It wouldn’t take long to discover how wrong I was about that). Writing had served its purpose. It had given me something to focus on when all I had been able to see before me was a gaping chasm of never-ending grief. It was time to get back to reality and forget about my hobby. After all, writing a book is an achievement in itself, even if you never do anything with it.
Well, that was the plan.
But every day, the characters continued running around in my head. Causing chaos. Interrupting when I was thinking about what to cook for dinner that day. Arguing with each other when I was taking a shower. Coming up with new things they wanted to do and say every time I started to drop off to sleep. Annoying me with their endless chatter.
Why won’t you let us out? If you do, then we can talk to other people instead.
They swore me an oath of silence if I would promise them an audience in return.
So, I told some of my closest friends about them – in hushed tones in quiet corridors, should anyone else overhear of their existence.
‘Let’s have a read then,’ they offered.
‘Oh, go on.’
‘Okay. But will you be honest?’ I asked. ‘Tell me if it’s rubbish.’
‘Of course,’ they all nodded earnestly. So I agreed. I knew that they would never say anything negative, because I was still grieving for my beautiful son, and they understood that writing had been my escape. And because they are my tribe, my fairy godmothers, and some of the most supportive, loyal women I’ve ever met.
So I sent them my first draft. Although not until I had made them participate in an elaborate email exchange (which would have put MI5 to shame) to ensure that I didn’t mistakenly send my precious manuscript to the wrong email address. Not that I thought someone might steal my work, I might add, but because I was so terrified of anyone but them reading it.
I might as well have been sending them my diary, so wracked with nerves I was. So much of writing comes from within us, it felt like baring my soul. I had almost bitten my fingernails to the quick waiting for their responses, Even though I knew they’d be kind, I know them all well enough to know when they’re bluffing too.
But then something incredible happened. My anxiety started to give way to excitement. Would they guess the twist? Would they love to hate my antagonist as much as I did? Would they like the main character enough to root for her? Was the setting right? Instead of worrying about what they thought, I started to think about how they might help me make my story better.
Just as I’d reached the conclusion that my first draft was in fact a pile of old rubbish, which needed a complete rewrite, I started to get their feedback:
‘Oh my God, I loved it. I mean I really loved it.’
‘Well, I was proud of you for writing it anyway, but it’s actually really good.’
‘Where the hell did that come from? I didn’t even know you could write.’
‘You actually wrote a book!’
And I started to think that they weren’t just humouring me. They actually did like it. Maybe I had something after all?
As I listened to my friends talk about my characters like they knew them, those people, who had for so long only existed in my head, started to become real – almost flesh and blood. So instead of shutting the little nuisances up (my characters, that is), letting them loose had made them even worse.
See, we told you our story was good. Everybody loves us! They chanted.
What followed was an internal conversation that went on for weeks and went something like this:
So, what should I do now? Am I really ready to share my novel with the world?
Nope. Probably not?
But wouldn’t it be great if I could?
Well, yes it would. Why shouldn’t I send it off into the big wide world?
Oh, don’t be daft. Then people might actually read it.
But some people might like to read it.
Okay. So do it!
And so began my long and eventful journey to signing a publishing contract for a two book deal with Killer Reads – which is a whole other post!
Until the next time,
Always shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars!