New beginnings - experience of writing that first novel

Welcome to my blog. Writing my first novel a detective, thriller, has been a surreal experience. I thought it would be a straightforward process in that I just had to finish what I started – accepting that there would be highs and lows along the way. But the new skills I had to acquire not just in writing my first novel – The Grey Pilgrim’s Gambit – but in developing what are described in many published articles as authorpreneurship, were intimidating. Yes, you could choke on that word. But apparently as the word suggests, it is everything associated with being an author and developing a marketing business around the brand. But I will tell you what that has meant to me in my next blog. Back to the novel. It started out three years ago as an entry for a writing competition - the first three chapters or 5,000 words plus a synopsis. It wasn’t successful but considering there were over 20,000 entries it was a pretty long shot. I showed the story to several members of my writer’s group – Writers Ink. The feedback I got were questions about what happened next. Somehow, I had developed a good opening hook; the aim of any novel to catch the interest of your reader. So, I set to and wrote ‘The Grey Pilgrim’s Gambit’ over the next eighteen months, a total of 106,000 words. Then came the first disheartening bit – the first of several. I had to put the novel aside and try to forget about it so that I could come back fresh for what has proved to be four subsequent edits. Several years ago, I took part in the Guardian’s Master class on writing. I recall at the time recoiling at the idea of the editing process. Our tutor Ross Rasin told us the first edit would be a rewrite of the novel. Yes, that’s what I felt. I wanted to shout no to the principle of discarding the draft and rewriting the whole novel. I wanted to resist the idea the draft could be that bad. But in the end, I had to accept, at its best it was a rough – the bones of a novel that need fleshing out and refining. I also discovered that in the intervening period the story had developed in my subconscious; sub plots and new motives emerged, the characters came alive as Stephen King said they would and they started to drive the narrative. I am eternally grateful to Catherine my wife for her edits – she reads every word unlike me. Also, Jan from my Writer’s group whose edits and advice helped keep me on the straight and narrow. And from expertise on medical stuff thank you Jack; and on police procedures and terminology, thank you Dave. I came to realise very quickly how much the novel was a team effort. I was just holding the pen…. (tapping the keyboard). Finally, I purchased an editing tool – ProwritingAid – to ferret out the various errors in the text, repetitions, poor grammar etc. Then came the Beta reader stage. Exposing my novel to public scrutiny for the first time. I printed several copies and posted them out and waited with trepidation. What would I be told – could I handle the constructive criticism, no matter how well meant? In the end the feedback was surprisingly consistent, the issues raised similarly revealed by the Beta readers. Another edit phase followed to nuance and correct the text, to eliminate confusion and correct plot holes. And this brings me up to date. What next? A professional edit is expensive. Do I try to find and agent, a publisher or do I go the self-publishing route? This is all part of the authorpreneurship process I mentioned earlier, the first tentative step into which has been the website you are reading this blog on. I had to build it from scratch and learn a load of new skills, which for a technophobe is pretty scary. Presently I am submitting ‘The Grey Pilgrim’s Gambit’ to international writing competitions for first time unpublished authors, in the hope that the exposure might attract an agent or publisher. Well that’s it for my first blog, something I have never done before. Hope you have enjoyed it.