I’ve always wanted to write a novel. I think everyone does. Its one of those things that, if we just had the time, if we could just focus, we could get that brilliant idea down and get it done. That’s how it was for me.
I’d tried a few times before, only ever getting as far as 30 pages before self-doubt caught up with me. I couldn’t write a novel and it was silly of me to think I could. I had a grade B ‘O’ Level in English, and a CSE grade 1 in English Literature. I’d never been to University, I didn’t know any authors and there was no way I could ever hope to be one.
But the dream persisted.
For years I did nothing about it, but gradually I started to write more and more. At first it was TV and radio scripts: the length was less daunting, only 30 pages for a half hour script. I could manage that, just about. Doing a few of those gave me confidence, and I hammered out a couple of 60 minute scripts for TV pilots that no one has yet to pick up. But the lack of success didn’t seem to matter, I was enjoying learning, trying to get better.
But I still thought I’d never manage to focus on writing a book. I decided I needed help, and I turned to Stephen King. At this stage I’d never even read one of his books, (I know!). When I grew up I was into comics and heavy sci-fi. Horror didn’t really appear on my radar. But for whatever reason I picked up a copy of his book, ‘On Writing‘. I took it on holiday with me to Scotland and devoured its contents.
Suddenly I saw what I was doing wrong, I understood why every attempt to write a book had stalled and died. It came down to one fundamental secret that King understood: fear and self-doubt dog us all, writers even more so. Once you’ve started a book you cannot look back for a moment or the Devil of Doubt will catch up with you and whisper thoughts of despair into your ears.
King taught me this: write every day, read every day. Like the best scientific formula its elegantly simple.
I came back from the Highlands fired up, determined to try again. I committed to writing every day, and reading every day, and I swore I would not look over my shoulder at my work-in-progress. I would keep ahead of the devil.
The next day I began to write up an idea I’d started about 6 months before. As usual I’d done a few brief chapters and lost my way. I took this germ of the idea and started again.
To be continued…