At the start of every month I ask my Facebook followers to suggest some writing prompts and challenges and then I post the one I chose at the end of the month. This time I picked ‘Addiction’ which was a one word prompt. What came to mind was a list poem so here it is:
Release day is fast approaching! I am just putting the final touches to everything and double checking everything is okay before I set up the Amazon pre-order link. I hope to have that done in the next few days.
But to keep you entertained, I hope you enjoy this sample chapter from the novel!
Bill was lying to both Pete and
Summer when he said he knew what he was going to sing on Saturday. He didn’t
know, and it was driving him insane. It wasn’t as easy as people imagined. He
couldn’t just get up there and sing what he wanted to sing. There was so much
more to it than that. There was the audience for one thing. They came expecting
entertainment. They didn’t want to be subjected to anything too new, too
obscure or too noisy. More than anything, he knew they wanted something to sing
He spent the rest of the week trying
to figure it out. He didn’t want to get on the stage and sing karaoke songs
like all the others. He wanted to sing. He wanted to perform.
Last time he had been showing off.
He’d picked a song from the machine a week in advance, probably the hardest one
on there. It was never about emulating the original version. He just listened
to the lyrics and thought about what they meant to him. He’d spent hours like
that, lying on his bed with the music in his ears and his eyes closed.
He’d mouthed it in silence to
begin with, getting to grips with the feel of the words in his mouth. Bill
smiled about it now, as he paced his room, picking up records and putting them
down again, running through his playlists again and again, thumbing through
Spotify and YouTube. What did he want to sing? What did he want to say?
Dog Days Are Over, by Florence and
The Machine. He’d picked it because it was shouty and loud. Because he could
lose himself in it. Because he liked the words and he thought about Summer when
he sang it, and he didn’t even know why, except you had to think about
But now? What now?
That had been before. Dog Days Are Over. He’d felt like that…like
he could forget about his mother and the horrible aching betrayal of it all,
and he could sing anyway. He didn’t sound like her. He didn’t sing or move like
her either. He could just be himself and still blow their minds. He could walk
around this cesspit with his head held high.
This was after. Now he had to pick a song knowing that the entire
estate knew a gang of masked youths had kicked the shit out of him. He had to
pick a song after that? And sing it in front of all of them? Including
McDonnal? No, it wasn’t easy.
Bill thought about drink warming
his belly, fingers of comfort snaking through his veins, bringing him up tall,
and what would he sing when he felt like that? Something old and warm and
comfortable. He could sing one of his mum’s favourite songs. His voice smooth
and silky yet strong and growling when he needed it to be. Something by The
Foundations or The Four Tops. The audience would like that. Everyone knew those
old soul songs.
He could sing something new he was
getting into, but he didn’t know how that would go down. He was into some dark
stuff lately which wouldn’t suit the community centre atmosphere. People went
there for a good time, or for some company, some support. They went there for
hope. He couldn’t take that away from them for the sake of showing off.
Then there was his bloody dad.
They’d always clashed, Bill thought,
as he opened the window and felt the cold night air on his cheeks. People said
they were too similar; short tempered and impatient, but Bill didn’t buy that.
They were nothing alike. He liked to be left alone, whereas Andy craved
company. Bill liked to keep his thoughts to himself, but his father liked the
sound of his own voice too much. Like now. Bill could hear him downstairs, his
voice rising and falling, laughter, punctuated by angry exclamations. He could
have been arguing with someone or shouting at the TV or just talking to
himself. He could never be still or silent.
His dad was one of those short,
angry men, he mused, gazing out of the half open window. He had a chip on his
shoulder and a point to prove. He was so annoying most of the time, so over the
top, especially lately with all the overprotective crap. He was embarrassing.
But those bastards had made him
Bill didn’t think he would ever
forget it. His father leaning over him, touching his hair with tears on his
cheeks. It was the first time he had considered what his dad had been through.
Until that moment Bill had only viewed the attack through his own eyes. He had
not stopped to think about how his father must have felt that night.
And it pissed him off.
Maybe blood was thicker than water
after all. Maybe he owed him a good night. He leaned out of the window, pushing
it further open. A stroll in the dark was what he needed. A chance to think
about it. Something would come to him then. The Clash, maybe. The Buzzcocks.
His dad loved all that stuff. A grin pulled at his lips as he pictured himself
getting up on the stage to sing something by The Sex Pistols. Then there was
Tom Waits. Andy had always been a fan.
Something pulled at his mind then.
Guitar intro. Low and dark and thrumming, giving the suggestion that something
was about to happen. The drums building up with the guitars. And then when it
kicked in it was gentler and sadder than expected. He could have jumped up and
down in excitement when it finally came to him. He recalled the first verse,
something about flirting with death and not caring about it. And it all fell
into place, the rest of the words, and the music that spiralled between the two short
choruses. It would be blinding. It was exactly what he wanted to say.
He decided to sneak out anyway. He
could find it on his phone and wander around having a quiet sing. Bill turned
at the exact second the brick came flying towards his head. He felt it spin
past his cheekbone and ducked away instinctively covering his head with his
arms. It rolled across the bedroom floor and sat there ominously. He rushed to
the window, leaned out and looked around.
‘That all you got?’ he roared
without thinking. ‘Come on then!’
He regretted his outburst when his
father came pounding up the stairs and into his room. Perhaps Bill could have
made up an excuse, if Andy had not stubbed his toe on the brick lying in the
middle of the carpet.
‘What the bleeding-hell?’
Bill pulled the window shut and
whipped the curtains together. He faced his father and watched him pick up the
brick and turn it over in his hands. He held it out to Bill, his eyes bright
‘This just come through the
window?’ Bill paused, and his father reddened. ‘Eh? Did it?’
‘Looks like it, doesn’t it?’ he
responded sulkily, pushing past him.
Andy rushed to the window where he
yanked back the curtains and stared out. ‘Just like that?’
‘Right, that’s it then,’ Andy
stormed from the room, taking the brick with him. ‘I’m calling Collins over.’
Bill followed him from the room.
‘Oh, for God’s sake, what’s the point? I didn’t see anyone!’
Andy stopped and faced him on the
stairs. ‘That’s all I ever bloody hear from you! I didn’t see anything, I
didn’t see anyone! What are you, bloody blind?’
Andy trotted down the rest of the
stairs and picked up the phone. He pointed the brick at his son. ‘I’m not
sitting here and taking that!’ he told him. ‘This is our home!’
Bill made a noise of disgust and
walked through to the kitchen. ‘Go on then!’ he yelled back over his shoulder.
‘You’re wasting your time!’
Bill stalked around the kitchen,
shaking his head and feeling penned in. Minutes later his father stormed into
the kitchen and stood in the doorway, hands on hips, legs spread.
‘He’s coming over. You’re gonna sit
in here and talk to him.’
Bill threw up his hands. ‘About
‘About everything!’ Andy growled
in return. ‘Now, I’m not bloody stupid, Billy-boy. I wasn’t born yesterday! I know
there’s something you’re not telling me about all of this. Why is someone
Bill slumped into a chair, folded
his arms and shook his head. ‘How do you even know the same person threw the
brick? Probably just kids mucking about. You’re gonna look a right dick when Collins
‘You’re gonna look like a dick when
whatever you’re hiding catches up with you!’
‘I’m not stupid,’ Andy warned him
again, his breathing finally slowing down. ‘You’re seriously expecting me to
believe you was just minding your own business one night, and a whole gang
decided to target you? No. There’s more, and I know it. Sit there! And don’t even think
about moving a muscle until Collins gets here!’
Andy spun around and marched back
into the lounge, where Bill heard him collapse onto the sofa and swear at the
dog. Bill rested his elbows on the table and dropped his head into his hands.
Suddenly Saturday night seemed a very long way off. He exhaled frustration
through his fingers, then dropped his hands and sat back in the chair. A brief
glance at the door, considering escape, but Andy must have been a mind reader
‘Don’t even think about it,
Billy-boy,’ his voice came from the other room. ‘I’m a lot faster than you
PC Collins knocked on the door
twenty minutes later. He came through to the kitchen, his hat in his hands and
his cheeks flushed red from the cold night air.
‘Thanks Andy,’ Bill heard him
saying, before he glanced at Bill, and then gestured to a chair. ‘Mind if I sit
Bill sighed, slumping forward
again. ‘Look, he’s totally wasting your time. It was just a stupid brick! Could
have been anyone!’
Collins flipped open his notebook
and started writing. ‘Well,’ he said, sounding weary. ‘The thing is, you might
be right, but we have to consider what’s already gone on, don’t we? Now
obviously in the eyes of the law, a brick is not much to go on and no damage
was done, but we can’t help connect the dots to other things, eh?’
Bill breathed out and in again,
willing his frustration to lay low. ‘Connecting dots is just useless though,’
he tried to point out. ‘That won’t stand up in a court of law, will it?’
‘No, course not, but that’s not
the point right now.’
‘What is then?’
‘The point is keeping an eye on
the situation,’ Collins explained calmly. ‘Making sure things don’t escalate.
Your father did the right thing calling me, and he also did the right thing
when he called us about the video. Sometimes lots of small parts add up to the
whole, you see?’
Bill shook his head and glowered.
Collins laughed softly. ‘Well, you
will. Okay, so you were in your room? At the window? The window was open?’
‘Yes,’ he growled. ‘Then I turned
away and the brick came through. And no, I didn’t see or hear anything or
‘Okay,’ sighed Collins. ‘And
you’ve not had any altercations with anyone in the last few days?’
Bill thought briefly about
punching Logan in the community centre. ‘No.’
‘Look, can I ask you something?’
Collins lowered his notebook. ‘Of
Bill scratched his head, then
pushed his hair back from his face and bit his lip. ‘Just saying…I mean, if I
thought I knew who attacked me, but I couldn’t prove it? That still
wouldn’t help me, would it?’
Collins closed the notebook,
folded his hands on the table top and looked at Bill very seriously. ‘If you
have any idea who attacked you, Bill, you need to tell me now.’
‘But what I’m saying is, it won’t help,
will it? I can’t prove anything.’
‘Well, let’s say you thought you
had an idea, it would depend on why.
So, let’s say, hypothetically speaking that you did have an idea? Why that person?’
Bill shrugged. ‘Instinct.’
Collins nodded. ‘Nothing else? No
recognition? Of shape or form or voice? Stature?’
Bill shook his head. ‘Nothing
obvious. Nothing that can be proven in court. That’s what I’m getting at. You
need actual proof, don’t you?’
Collins nodded slowly. ‘Yes, you
do. But imagine if I had a name? Then depending on who that might be, and what
their reputation and record showed up, I might be able to get a warrant to
search their home. You see? I might be able to question them, and you know,
sometimes that’s all you need, because they don’t have an alibi for that night,
or they’ve got some incriminating evidence in their home.’
Bill smiled softly. ‘No one would
be that stupid.’
‘You’d be surprised, Bill.’
Bill shook his head. If there had
been any evidence, it would have been destroyed that night. And the gang would
provide alibis for each other.
‘There were four of them, you
say,’ Collins said to him then. Bill nodded. ‘A chain is only as strong as its
‘What does that mean?’
‘It means not all of those four
will be as strong as the others. Someone will crack.’
‘They might,’ Bill
corrected him. ‘That’s what I’m saying. Might and maybe are no good for me, are
they? You can’t promise me anything.’
‘I can protect you.’
Bill laughed out loud. ‘No, you
can’t. No one can do that for anyone. Can I ask you something else?’
Collins slipped his notebook into
the breast pocket of his uniform. ‘Go for it.’
‘Has there been any progress on
the Lewis Matthews murder?’
‘Well, I’m not obviously meant to
discuss that case with anyone.’
‘I’m not just anyone. It might
affect me. Have they got any idea who it was? Or why?’
‘Why is the biggest
problem,’ Collins sighed, getting up from the chair. ‘Lewis was a nice kid.
Worked hard at school and kept himself to himself.’
‘So, why’d someone stab him then?’
Collins shrugged. ‘The only angle
we’ve got to go on is his father’s colourful background, but that’s about all I
can say about it to you right now, okay?’
Bill nodded, knowing the officer
had already said more than he was supposed to. It was enough anyway, he
reasoned. Enough for Summer.
I am currently in the throes of writing the first draft of a novel. I shouldn’t really be doing this. I have a book ready and waiting to be published, and another one awaiting its 5th draft. But sometimes, ideas get too loud. Sometimes characters get too noisy inside my head. And sometimes it feels like you have been editing and revising and rewriting for so long, you just desperately need a break from it. I needed to write something fresh and it has done me the world of good. (It is actually a sequel to the book awaiting 5th draft, so not entirely fresh, but you get the idea.)
Anyway, writing the first draft is a lot of fun but also totally insane. I know it is very different for everyone. There are ‘pantsers’ and ‘plotters’ and many who fall somewhere in between. I have never been much of a plotter. What tends to happen is I get the characters first, their personality, flaws, dreams, background, and dilemmas. I get to know them pretty well inside my head, where they basically treat me like a therapist and start telling me all of their problems. Things inevitably evolve and progress and before long I have a plot of sorts, a loose start middle, and end and I start jotting notes down so I don’t forget anything. As I’ve said before, by the time I start a book I know the characters so well, but it’s the storyline and sequence of events I’ve got to get to grips with.
I kind of envy plotters. They outline and plan every detail, do all their research before writing and probably come out with a far more polished and advanced first draft than I do. I do try to plot, it’s just that it also sort of works itself out as I go along. Generally, I will have the basics, the bones, but as I write, things change and grow and then I will know what is happening about 3 chapters ahead.
My first draft, I am happy to admit, is a scruffy, ugly, clumsy, diabolical piece of writing. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit harsh on myself, but it does tend to be cluttered with question marks (because I am too lazy in the moment of writing to go off and research something, I will just leave a question mark, in other words, get back to it later) I do the same thing when I can’t think of the best or right word or phrase…ahh hell just move along and do it later. The hard work begins in draft 2 and 3 and so on. So perhaps I should take note of the plotters style and try to calm things down a bit. It would help me in the long run, there’s no doubt.
So, why do I do it like this? This crazy, messy, hectic outpouring of events and ideas? It’s because I’m in a hurry. I want to get it done.I will worry about perfection and fine honing later when I am calmer. When I am writing it for the first time I am literally high on the energy and the creativity of it and I want to get it out, get it written, not stop for anything, I want to write without hesitation or worry, knowing that no one is ever going to see this, so it doesn’t matter how shoddy it is, I am just telling the story.
The other reason is, the first draft, telling the story for the first time and finally getting it out of my head where it has been for months even years, is all consuming for me. Like an addiction, I am totally distracted by it and endlessly guilty of thinking about it non stop and not wanting to do anything else until it is done – so sorry family! I don’t want to blog, or promote, or write articles or anything, I turn the laptop on and just want to write and how dare anything else get in the way until it is done!
I am nearing the end now of this current work-in-progress. I had one of those wonderful moments today while out running when all the loose ends tied up and I suddenly worked out exactly how to get to the end. An amazingly dramatic climax also reared its magnificent head, providing a way into book three. (Yes, this has now turned into a trilogy…) This was the moment I had been waiting for. I had total faith that it would come. I believe the whole story is all there in my head the entire time. I just need to pluck it out from all the other stuff going on up there!
Once I have finished this frenzied madness I am currently existing in, I will feel better. Calmer.I will be quite happy to push it to one side and get back to the orderly and professional business of editing and perfecting my two (almost) finished novels. I will be less distracted. I will be able to concentrate on normal life again. I will probably finish up early more often and watch some TV with the kids.
But for all its insanity, I really needed this ugly first draft fiasco. For me, that passion, the addiction, the mind bursting with creativity, characters coming to life in ways you never expected, revelations, inspiration, eureka moments, the weaving together of lives ands tories, the utter, mad excitement and adrenalin of it all, is what writing is all about!
Please feel free to comment and share! Do you plot or just get going and see what happens? Is your first draft a frenzied affair like mine, or something far more organised and sedate?