Another week gone and I have found myself reflecting back over that well used term, 'the journey', I went on when deciding to write my first piece of fiction. It's hard to pinpoint the actual starting point of when the idea formed and then crystalised in my mind that resulted in action that set me off down the path of such a big undertaking. The more I think about it, the more certain I am that there never was a eureka!! moment to writing Raised from the Shadows, but a more gradual, diffuse process, that resulted in the books final publication.
Without question, I had always had a love for reading that I shared with my brother, Mike. The writing of an essay in an English exam that had to be titled 'Duel' I guess, may seem a strange developmental marker for a budding writer, but it is a moment that always pops into my head when I think about 'the journey' . I remember, vividly, how immersed I felt in creating the story so much so it didn't feel like an exam. I also remember, how much satisfaction I derived from telling, what I thought, was a good story. The telling of stories and reminiscing, has always been a big part of my family life; when chatting with family and friends, or over many pots of tea with my mother, storytelling was always there... and still is. I think the point is, I've always had an interest in storytelling, reading and writing which leaves you only a short step from taking the plunge and having a go at writing a book.
So, what made me take that step to start writing? I had published many articles for professional journals and co-authored a book with a colleague before I settled to try and write a piece of fiction. The process of writing and publishing a professional book are worlds apart from writing a piece of fiction. However, I feel that when the time comes to write a piece of fiction, it is helpful to write a piece of fiction that is based in an area where you have professional knowledge and experience which allowed me a degree of confidence to have a go at writing before putting the finished book out there.
Many years ago, my first attempt at writing a piece of fiction was called 'Northern Angel'. It was a piece of work set in the 1980's and was a fact based piece of fiction about a young man from a working class background in the North East of England who decides to develop a career in nursing. I never published this book, but it allowed me to cut my teeth in writing and provided a fantastic grounding and experience in starting to think and learn about how to put a story together that would span across 100,000 words.
I started writing what was to become, Raised from the Shadows, in 2003. I felt that this was the type of book I could try to have published for my first piece of fiction. I had been looking for something that would allow me to bring together my professional knowledge and developing skills as a writer. I wanted something that would be of interest to the readership and would take them to a place that would be equally intriguing and troubling. I decided to write the book from the killers perspective, putting the reader into the mind of serial killer. I merged fact and fiction by identifying an historical serial killer and constructed a fictional psychological profile detailing the main characters early trauma that was to lay down the foundations for the eventual rise of the serial killer. By knitting together his early experiences with his actual crimes and detailing his gradual descent into madness as experienced from his perspective, through his eyes, the book was to provide a perfect opportunity for an exploration of the developing mind of a serial killer.
I was developing the Guardian of the Faith book alongside Raised from the Shadows. Guardian of the Faith was different in that it was set in modern day and was a piece of pure fiction. It was always my intention to publish Raised from the Shadows first and to follow up with Guardians.
It is interesting that many people are willing to offer advice about how to write a piece of fiction, but like with most things I would guess that how you go about writing a book is very idiosyncratic. I could break down my writing into three very distinct phases. Phase 1: I have the basis of a story in my head, which I note down on a board (basic story line, setting, characters etc). I write the whole book based on these notes which provides the skeletal framework for the book. Phase 2: I go back over the book and using further notes I've sketched on the board I start fleshing out the initial skeleton of the book. As I'm writing new ideas form and the book starts to take shape. At this stage I'm ironing out continuity errors, ensuring the book flows and fine tuning the book. At the end of this stage I would happy for other people to read as a draft. Phase 3: Is the fine tuning stage which would include editing and proofreading. By this time, you would have lost count of how many times you have read the book and should know it inside out, a real labour of love.
I worked on Raised from the Shadows for a few years, while also managing my day job. Due to time demands, I put the book away for what I had planned to be a short time which turned into a number of years. However, I think this might have been a blessing in disguise because when I returned to review the manuscript I noticed that there were sections in the early part of the book that I was simply narrating rather than really getting into the mind of the character and writing in detail from his perspective. Furthermore, I feel that when I returned to write the book I was in the right place to be able to immerse myself in the book which allowed the ideas and writing to flow more easily. I feel this is so important when writing. If you have too many demands and distractions in your life it is really hard to find the time and environment you need to produce any book that would stand a chance of being considered for publication. I finished the book in early 2017. What followed was the even more daunting task of finding a literary agent/publisher or if not considering the big question of do I self publish? This is a big moment for any prospective writer. You have probably spent years writing a book and have finally finished. What happens next?
Although, I would like to answer this question now, it would open the door to a much broader debate about finding a publisher and self publishing and I would like to address this in my blog next week. So, until then...
Best wishes and I'll look forward to catching up with you next week.