First Draft Madness

Last week I finished the second draft of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – Part 5. I originally scribbled this book into a notepad about six months ago. Finishing the second draft was exciting, because I managed to untangle the ending I had got in a mess with, and this lead to such excitement about the planned and plotted Part 6, I just couldn’t resist launching right into it.

So, in the evenings I am currently editing a chapter or two a night of Part 5, (making this the third draft). While in the day, any chance I can get, I am writing brand new, first draft Part 6 into a notebook. I am so excited!!!!

I have realised over the years that writing the first draft of a novel has a really strange affect on me. I love it but fear it. I can’t get enough of it. It is something I get addicted to, but also can’t wait to be over. I thought I’d list the things that happen to me when writing a first draft. Perhaps if you are a writer, you can relate? Feel free to comment if you do!

  • I feel nervous. This is a very, very weird thing. Now, I don’t think of myself as an especially anxious person, but like everyone, I have my moments. However, there is nothing that can make me quite as anxious and tense as writing a first draft. It’s really really hard to pinpoint why. All I know is that I will wake up with a nervous tight feeling in my belly, go about my day with that same heavy, almost painful sensation, start to panic about what it means, only to find it goes away completely once I start writing. This does not happen with the subsequent drafts of novels. Just the first! I guess it makes me nervous, though I’m not sure why. Maybe its nervous excitement? The longing to be writing is so strong that knowing I can’t do it until later makes my body tense? I have no idea.
  • I am addicted. This is the worst thing and also the best thing. Obviously, feeling addicted to what you are writing is a good thing because there is no danger of writers block or any kind of procrastination. I am utterly in love with the act of writing and shaping this novel and it feels like that too, like butterflies in my tummy. But it’s not the easiest thing to live with. When you’ve got two day-jobs, multiple pets and four children, it’s hard to find the time to squeeze writing in and when in the midst of the pure addiction that only happens with the first draft, it’s a bit like torture not being able to write.
  • I am distracted. Beyond belief! When I was a kid I was constantly being told by people that I was in my own little world. They were right I really was. And I still am. I’m still that kid. In a constant daydream I struggle to break free of. I am constantly thinking about my book and my characters. Plot twists and story-lines weave through my head all the time, which is exciting and brilliant, but I’m meant to be reading to my child? Or making dinner? Sometimes I wish the voices in my head would be quiet. Or at least wait until later. But they have other ideas and I just have to deal with it the best I can.
  • Creativity is at its peak. I usually have a plot before I start writing. In particular, with these books as they are part of a series, the plots are somewhat already in action, and at the end of the last book I would have written an outline for what happens in the next. But something exciting happens with the first draft of a book. Yes, I’ll have my basic plot, but every time I write a chapter, I get new ideas for the next ones. The next chapter will write itself in my head before I have finished the one I am on. The next chapters will line up in my mind while I am walking dogs and cooking dinner…it’s like a constant bubbling? I truly believe the more you write, the more your mind wants to write. The ideas flow once you let them, once your provide that release. It’s like they know it’s coming and they are finally getting their turn! It’s really quite amazing. So although my basic plot probably won’t change, in the process of writing the first draft, creativity will hit the roof. I also find I have way more ideas for blog posts, poems and short stories during this time!

There are loads more things I could say about writing a first draft. I think it’s important to let go of how clumsy and new it is, and just embrace the ideas as they flow. Subsequent drafts are for tidying up, tightening up and cutting down…and I enjoy that process just as much for different reasons. But the first draft is a crazy time…a crazy thing. I will be a bit sad when it is over for this book!

Advertisements

How My Books Are All Linked Up

With the imminent release of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – Part Three, (released February 22nd, available for pre-order now!) I thought I would write a post about how all of my books are linked to each other.

Some of the links are quite obvious, but others are more subtle so you might have missed them. Let’s start with my first release, YA novel, The Mess Of Me.

themessofme-BLANK (1)

The Mess Of Me is linked to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series, by location. Lou and her best friend Joe live on an estate on one side of a bypass and have to cross over the bypass via a bridge to reach their school on the Somerley estate. In The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, Danny and his friends attend Somerley school in the first two books. Danny is also mentioned in The Mess Of Me, by Joe, who is angry with his stepfather and issues a vague threat about doing what Danny Bryans did in the 90’s. The narrator Lou explains to the reader that Danny Bryans was imprisoned for knifing his stepfather to death, and that his is a well-known and notorious story in their area. She also mentioned his name is engraved on a bench near where he used to live.

theboywith-final-part 1

The Boy With The Thorn In His Side will later on in the series, have links to two as yet unreleased books. A Song For Bill Robinson, which I hope to release later this year, and a book which has the working title of The Lane Brothers. The Lane brothers appear in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Parts 5 and 6, which are not out yet. Danny will also appear in their spin-off book.

thisisnowhere-New

This Is Nowhere is linked to Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature by location. This Is Nowhere is set almost entirely in my home village, Hurn. All of my books contain real locations, but I usually fictionalise them and change the names of towns and streets. In this book, I kept everything real. The character of Jake returns home to Hurn after running away as a teenager, and the house he lives in is my actual house now. In Elliot Pie, I have fictionalised some of the locations, but kept Hurn real. Elliot cycles out to Hurn when exploring new places and befriends a lady called Sandra. Sandra lives next door to Jake and May. They are not mentioned by name, but eagle-eyed readers might have picked up on her mentions of the neighbours, and the fact she dislikes the long-legged lurcher type dogs they keep. Both books contain scenes set on the beautiful Sopley Common, a real place, and probably my favourite place in the world.

JshHMmZ

Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature is linked to A Song For Bill Robinson, a YA book I hope to release later this year. Both characters live on Hoppers Close, on the Holds End estate. In Elliot Pie, he longs to escape this small world and frequently cycles away from the area to make new friends. At the start of the book, he mentioned the other people who live on Hoppers Close (based on a close I used to live on as a teenager) and tells the reader a bit about the Robinson family. He also spots Bill Robinson walking across the close with his guitar on his back. A Song For Bill Robinson is set almost exclusively on the Holds End estate. It’s a fictionalised version of a council estate named Townsend, which is where I grew up.

And as I have already mentioned, A Song For Bill Robinson links to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series, in particular, the last three books, where Danny is an adult and running his own nightclub. Indie nightclub Chaos features heavily in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series, and in the later books is a place up and coming bands can audition for regular slots. At the end of A Song For Bill Robinson, he and his band secure such an audition at Chaos, and Danny Bryans is mentioned. He may even appear briefly in the sequel to A Song For Bill Robinson, Emily’s Baby.

The only book not obviously linked to the others is The Tree Of Rebels, because it is set in the future. In my mind however, the location is a future version of the places I have already fictionalised in my other books.

I’m not sure why I like to link my books up. It sort of happened naturally and has become a habit. It’s easy to do because I tend to use the same real and fictionalised locations and my characters tend to be similar in class and background. Plus, it’s fun. It means I never really have to say goodbye to anyone!

Stuck Inside A Story (For 28 years…)

That’s how it feels. That’s what it is. Stuck. Trapped. Held prisoner. I can’t get out. But do I really want to? Evidence would suggest not. Sometimes I wonder what exactly I have done. Created a world, created characters, used some magic and a lot of hard work, an imagination I can’t control, and there you have it, an alternative reality I can’t escape from.

I had no idea this would happen when I started writing as a child. My first attempts were hand-written stories about lost and abandoned animals, heavily influenced by my love of Watership Down and other similar books. I didn’t write my first story about real people living real lives until I was 12 years old. What happened to tear me away from my quaint tales of lost dogs and runaway bunnies? Well, weirdly, this.

download

And this.

45008420_2124373854248535_845460910603501568_o

Watching The Lost Boys gave me a few vital ingredients for the story that would go on to hold me prisoner for the next 28 years. It gave me the main idea, the main concept and it gave me some characters. Or at least, it inspired me to create characters who would turn out to be the kind of people I wished I knew in real life. As for Stephen King, it was around this time that I started my collection and was well on my way to becoming a truly obsessed fan. Add to that strange mix, the recent divorce of my parents, the usual teenage angst and rebellion, and I had me a story. Remember the bit in The Lost Boys when the younger brother realises his mother is dating the head vampire? That’s where the idea for The Boy With The Thorn In His Side came from. It wasn’t called that back then. It wasn’t called anything for ages. But I kept thinking…what if your mother was dating a monster? Only not the vampire kind, the real-life kind? And what if no one believed you? And what if you only had yourself and your best friends to try to battle this person? It was a weird mix of asking ‘what if’ questions, my parents’ recent divorce playing on my own fears, a dewy-eyed fascination with the actor Corey Haim, and a love of horror and fascination with the darker side of human nature that spawned this tale.

In my mind, my main character Danny, who is 13 at the start of Part 1, looked a lot like Corey Haim, who I was quite a bit in love with at that age. Once I had him in my head, his character started to grow and evolve, and I think I wrote that very early first draft pretty quickly. I remember it was my absolute obsession for a while. I hated to be away from that story. I’d rush home from school and up to my room to pick up my notebook and pen. I’d write endlessly and passionately. I suppose at the time I had no real idea of what I was doing. I was sort of trying to invent friends, I think. People I was intrigued by, people who had drama in their lives. I felt like I was a character in the book too. I was so proud when I finished it. I even started a sequel. I showed my English teacher and she read it and gave me a merit certificate I had to go up in assembly to collect. I remember being embarrassed but happy. The certificate said I had written a novel. At age 12! I don’t think I have the certificate anymore, but here’s the book.

 

IMG_20181030_100111.jpg

I started rewriting it after that. I had invested in an electronic word processor. It was the most exciting machine in the world to me! I could sit there and tap away and watch my words appear on this mini screen, before hitting print and then holding typed pages in my hands. What also happened to me at that age was that the story crept inside my brain. It kept me awake at night. It was company. I was never, ever bored. I’d look forward to bedtime because I knew I could lie there and think about my story before I fell asleep. I watched the scenes in my head like a movie. I heard them talking and arguing. Inevitably I came up with new ideas and extra bits, but mostly I just let them play it all out, and most of those imagined scenes have never made it into any of the books. It was just me, a fly on the wall of a made-up world, watching them live.

IMG_20181030_100519.jpg

Here’s one of the many pictures I drew of the characters. Only some of these made it into the final version.

IMG_20181030_100420.jpg

I rewrote that book again at aged 16. I’d started and not finished tons of other stories in that time. The book had opened a floodgate, forging a lifelong addiction to writing. But that one story, I couldn’t ever let it go. I rewrote it again at 19. I thought about it constantly during the non-writing years of balancing early motherhood with self-employment. The same story, the same characters always in my head, coming back to me night after night. I was 34 before I finally returned to it. I started writing in notebooks again, just like when I was a kid. Snatching spare moments, writing before bed, suddenly entirely addicted all over again, but this time it had to come out, it had to be finished.

I finally released it in 2013. The Mess Of Me snuck in and was released first because The Boy With The Thorn In His Side was so long and needed so much work. But finally, it was out. A real book I could hold in my hands! I’d done it. So now they would fall quiet, surely? I’d stop thinking about them. I’d stop playing out more scenes.

Well, no, not exactly. Before I knew it I’d penned a sequel, This Is The Day and released that too. That should have been the end of it it, but yet, it still wasn’t. The story itself was so enticing to me, and I was so invested in it, I couldn’t stop imagining other endings, and I guess, truth be told, in my head I did not want it to be over. So the stories went on. Every night, hi guys. What’s happening now?

I wrote an alternative ending in 2016 and included it in Bird People and Other Stories.That was supposed to draw a line under it, but it only made things worse. Now I couldn’t get the thought of other endings out of my head! What if this happened instead? What if? What if? For the fun of it, I started writing a screenplay in a notebook. Brand new material that led on from the original ending of book one, slotting in and delaying the ending, but finishing up before This Is The Day. This was only supposed to be for fun. To get it out of my system. To indulge myself even more than I already had. What the hell, what did it matter? It was for fun. I didn’t have to explain that to anyone!

Except now I do. Because that screenplay became a total obsession. I carried that notebook around with me everywhere. I grabbed every spare moment I had to write into it, getting this new story out. I absolutely loved it. I was so excited about it. I just couldn’t put it down. So eventually, after a lot of thinking and plotting, I came to a decision. I would do it. I would split the book back into two parts and this new material would be part three. Part Four would be This Is The day but it would need some reworking. Then suddenly, parts five and six emerged…

I’ve now accepted the truth. And that is that this story and these characters will never let me go. They are part of me and part of my life and I’m going to leave each book open, just in case I want to revisit it again.

There are new characters introduced in Parts Five and Six, and these also get their own spin-off book or possibly series with characters from both appearing in the others. So, as you can see… this thing could run and run.

So, if you are interested in reading this story, which began when I was 12, followed me through my life and has now evolved into at least a six-part series, you can start with The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Part One which is available for pre-order on Amazon now and is released on 9th November. This is a reworked, revised edition. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Part Two is also available for pre-order now and is also released on 9th November. Both at the special introductory price of 99p.

I plan to release the brand new Part Three in January an Part Four in February. By then I hope to be into the second or third draft of Part Five…

And the weird thing about this story is that I wrote it purely for myself, I indulged myself entirely, became utterly lost and absorbed and have still been unable to climb free from it. So I don’t really expect anyone to buy it, and I don’t really mind if they don’t. It feels weird to even try to plug it if I’m honest. Like this one is just for me. Like this is my mind, my imagination, my daydreams and to imagine anyone else wandering around in there is almost unsettling. And if it holds me prisoner for another 28 years? I think I’m okay with that…

theboywith-final-part 1

 

 

Interview with Mark Gillespie; Author Of Black Storm

Last month I picked Black Storm by Mark Gillespie as my indie book of the month. Mark is an extremely proficient author, with a terriific work ethic. He kindly agreed to an interview and here it is!

  1. For those who are not familiar with your work, how would you best describe your genre?

I call it Apocalyptic Pulp Fiction. But Post-Apocalyptic fiction is the most recognisable term for my kind of thing. There’s dystopian and horror elements in there too. I’ve dabbled previously with other genres (Alternate History) but if someone were to pin me to the wall, brandish a knife in my face and demand a straightforward answer (it could happen!), I’d look them in the eye and tell them that post-apocalyptic fiction is what I do.

  1. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always enjoyed writing but it was very much a background thing until I reached my early thirties. Stories and song – that’s been my thing in this life. Between the ages of 15 and about 30, I dedicated my life to song and to working as a musician in the UK and Ireland. I had a great time but the music thing fizzled out for me about 2010/2011. Work dried up. I fell out of love with the business of being a musician.

It was time for a change.

Later on, I went to uni as a mature student, studying English and History. When I picked up a book called The Heath Introduction to Fiction and read some of the short stories in there, a light bulb went on in my head. I felt the buzz again.

Real job? Forget it…I was going to be a writer!

  1. Can you tell us about your publishing experiences and journey so far?

I’m indie published. I’ve never submitted a manuscript to an agent or publisher because by the time I was ready to do so (2015), I felt that indie publishing was the best model for me. I wanted to make a living from my writing and I felt that indie was my best chance of doing so.

I’m not interested in sitting in anyone’s electronic slush pile.

Having said that, I accept that indie publishing isn’t for everyone. It’s so much work! I would encourage new authors to research their publishing options and figure out what’s the best model for them. Knowledge is power. Know what you’re getting into and why. If it’s indie, be prepared for a very steep learning curve and always remember to bring your creative and business hats to the table. And make sure it’s you’re A-game.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way but I think I’m getting better at this.

  1. Tell us about Black Storm, what inspired this book?

The initial trigger for Black Storm was something I read online a couple of years ago. I can’t quite remember if it was in a news article or on a forum or whatever – but I read something about a woman in America who’d been spotted walking through a town or a suburb dressed in old-fashioned mourning clothes. It sounded like she was doing an epic solo trek or something like that.

It was just so random and it struck me as noteworthy. I wonder sometimes if I imagined this because I can’t find any trace of it online (Yep, I just Googled it again!)

Whatever it was, that was the seed for the character of the Black Widow. I took note and it stuck. That was the beginning of Black Storm – it all began with the Black Widow.

51d31ZwvjML

  1. You are a remarkably proficient indie writer, can you tell us how you manage to publish books so quickly? What is your process?

I’m lucky that I have the time to dedicate to writing. But I also make good use of that time. A regular working day is between 10-15 hours, which includes both creative and business stuff (creative early, business later).

I get up at 5.30am most mornings and go to bed about 11ish on average. Apart from walking the dog, exercising (super important for authors!) and eating, the work takes up most of my time.

I always have an A project (a book in the later stages of editing) and a B project (ideas, brainstorming) on the go. That’s important for moving onto the next thing. I would hate to finish a book and have nothing but a blank page waiting. That would probably floor me.

In order to be prolific, you have to make sacrifices. What’s eating up your writing time? What can you give up? Nobody said it was all fun and games.

Working long hours is a habit for me now. That’s probably how I get the books out so fast – I try to release something every two months. I also write shorter books at about 50,000 words average. I know that I can’t keep that pace up for the rest of my life however. And I wouldn’t want to. There’s more to life than just work. Much more!

  1. What usually comes first for you? The character or the plot?

I start with a situation that intrigues me. More often than not, it revolves around a ‘what if?’ question.

With Black Storm, that question is what if human beings had been targeted for extermination by an unknown power? We exterminate other species all the time, but what if the tables were turned. What if it happened to us?

With the Future of London books, it’s what if the London riots hadn’t stopped?

Answering the questions is fun.

Character and plot come later. But it’s that initial idea, that question that hopefully will get the juices flowing. If I’m excited there’s a good chance that someone else will be too.

  1. Do you write your books with a particular theme or message in mind and if so, what is it?

I never start with a message or theme. It’s only somewhere within the writing process that it becomes clear to me what that message might be. And there always is one, at least from my perspective. From another person’s point of view, there might be a different message altogether. That’s the joy of individual interpretation. We take the text, soak it up with all our baggage and find a meaning that’s unique to us.

I discover what I’m writing about by writing about it. But it always starts from an entertainment perspective. Is this fun? Is this worth reading about? Can I stay with this from start to finish?

Themes, messages, and the deep stuff – they come from the unconscious. They take care of themselves and appear when they’re good and ready.

  1. Do you have a day job and if so does it help your writing in any way?

My day job is writing.

I’ve done a few jobs now (worked in hardware, written freelance sports articles, been a bouncer). But I’ve never worked so hard in all my life as I do now. Music was tough. Writing is tough. Anything creative is brutal and yet some people look in from the outside and assume it’s a breeze because it’s a passion and it’s associated with leisure/entertainment.

A few years back I was amused to see that the readers of a major newspaper had voted being an author as their ideal job. No doubt they had visions of sitting in a log cabin surrounded by gorgeous scenery. They saw themselves sitting in front of a typewriter, a turtleneck sweater on, a pipe hanging out of their mouths, and a Che Guevara beret on their heads. And the words would pour out of their minds fast and easy. And that’s all there is to it – another masterpiece in the bag.

They haven’t got a clue.

  1. Tell us about your next release

Black Fever is the next release. It’s the second of the Black Storm books, which follows the fortunes of father and daughter, Cody and Rachel MacLeod, as they try to navigate their way through a mysterious apocalyptic event, the Black Storm, which has plunged the world into darkness and despair.

Fingers crossed, Black Fever will be out on May 15th.

  1. What is the most valuable thing you have learned as an indie writer so far?

The number one lesson is perseverance.

It’s so hard at times being an indie author and you’ll feel like giving up a thousand times. And that’s just in one morning! Too often, it feels like a mountain of work with only a crumb of reward in return.

But keep going. If you truly believe you’re on the right path, keep grinding it out. Work hard, but work smart. Learn from others. Join Facebook groups like 20Books to 50K. Read books on indie publishing, writing and story craft, marketing etc…

Absorb the wisdom of others. You’ll find it if you look for it. And if you have any to share, then share it. The indie author community is a friendly one and we’re willing to help those in need. This is how we all grow.

You can find out more about Mark and his books here;

Website

Instagram

Facebook

Twitter