The Writing Process

This entry was posted on March 12, 2013 by admin.

To explain how I started writing, I feel I have to give you some background about both my personal history and the writing process itself, so please bear with me here. I was born into a semi-rural family farm in North County Dublin, Ireland. My upbringing was characteristic of the Ireland of the time, with a solid and loving family unit that was steeped in the traditional values that were then typical. One notable element of our family life that I remember to this day was the hard-fought debates every weekend, where no subject was taboo, and as teenagers of course we often took a contrarian view to our parents’ traditional beliefs simply because we were, well, teenagers! I received a good education, and was destined to be a farmer for life, working with my now-deceased Dad on the family farm, mostly growing potatoes (how Irish can you get?!). But when I was in my early twenties, I had a serious accident on the farm, breaking both legs quite badly (I was less than impressed when a succession of surgeons told me how lucky I was to have survived the fall!). But this was one of my big learning experiences – as I lay for weeks in a hospital bed, in severe pain and fear, I saw patient after patient moving through the orthopaedic ward. And it slowly dawned on me that the surgeons were right – I was lucky! I was alive. I was not paralysed. I would (eventually) be able to walk again. Lesson #1 No matter how bad it gets, it could be worse (and probably is, for someone not too far away).

And so I had to quit the manual labour of farming and move to an office job. I set up an IT business with my then wife, and we had a family of three of the most incredible young adults when I look at them today. We eventually sold the business and got 9-5 jobs, and life rolled on relatively uneventfully. Unfortunately, the marriage then ended, and that was another time of pain and hurt for all involved. But as we all struggled to cope with a difficult situation, I slowly learned another lesson, though it may have taken me a long time to hear it clearly. Lesson #2  We can survive, no matter how damaged we are. Things can get better. There is always hope.

It was during that difficult time that I began searching for another purpose in my life. I am a parent, which I consider to be one of the highest callings, and that gives me value and fulfilment. I was working in a desk job, which in truth gave me no real satisfaction, being a means to an end (paying the mortgage!), rather than an end in itself. And as I flailed about looking for a new reason for my existence, it came to me like a bolt out of the blue. It wasn’t a gradual dawning; it was that famed Eureka moment. I sat in my car in rush hour traffic on the M50 on the way to work one morning in late 2004, wondering What am I going to do? And the answer arrived in a single instant, fully formed I’am going to write a book. The idea was fully formed, but if I’m honest, I was doubtful. What? Write a book? Who, me? How?

Many people feel that they have a book in them, if they could only write. At different events, I have had people beyond measure say to me That’s amazing, that you wrote a book. I wish I could do that. Lesson #3 Anyone can write a book. You don’t even have to be very good at spelling or vocabulary or anything like that, those elements can be addressed by a good editor. The essence of any book is its story, and anyone can tell a story. If you want to write a book, I say to you Go for it. Sit down, and whether you handwrite it or type it, just start writing. See what happens. In the hope that it might be of some support and guidance to you, allow me to tell you the story of how I wrote my first novel, Laura’s Legacy.

So, I had the Eureka moment in 2004 I’m going to write a book. In some ways, the process is a complete mystery to me. I know after two novels and eight years of writing that to write new material (as opposed to editing something I’ve already written), I need to get away. I don’t need peace and quiet, but I do need to be away from my usual environment, preferably for at least a month each time. I think my mind needs to clear itself of all the humdrum day-to-day trivia of office job, commuting, housework, paying the household bills, etc. Once I get away, I sit down at my laptop (I have to type, because my handwriting is atrociously bad!) and start typing. I don’t know where the story comes from once I clear my mind and relax, the story simply arises. When I start typing, depending on what is happening at that point in the story, I might or might not have a vague idea of what is about to happen. Nevertheless, I am regularly surprised by the twists and turns that the story takes, despite being the person writing the story.

And that is why I say if you want to write a book, go for it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what to write, if you don’t know how to start the story. Just sit down, clear your mind and relax, and start writing. If it takes a few false starts, there’s no harm in that. At least you are writing.

So my creative writing was done in blocks, when I could get at least a few weeks away from work and home, usually abroad. That inevitably meant that there were long pauses between writing phases, and Laura’s Legacy took me probably four years to write, although the actual time spent writing was probably closer to four months. When I had it written, I read and re-read it, correcting all the typing mistakes, polishing the wording, fine-tuning the story wherever I felt it was needed. Then I got some close family and friends to proof-read it for me, relying on them for honest feedback. After that, I hired an editor to professionally edit it, and the editing process, in stops and starts, probably took another year or more before I decided that I now had the finished product ready for publication by 2010!

I then sent the manuscript to literary agents in Ireland and the UK. Some of them sent back very nice letters, saying it was an excellent book and well-written, but that it didn’t quite fit the type of literature that they represented (in other words, they very nicely said NO). The others didn’t reply. And so I decided to publish my masterpiece independently. I engaged Choice Publishing in Drogheda, Ireland, and the book was officially launched in 2010. And I thought the writing and editing and publishing were hard!!! Lesson #4 – For an independently-published novel, the hard work really begins the day you launch it. I held a series of Regional Launches around Ireland and in London, to get media interest and coverage. With the support of family and friends, I got good local coverage, and I have sold (so far) about one thousand copies of Laura’s Legacy, which I’m told is exceptional for an independently-published novel in Ireland. But I haven’t given up the day-job just yet!

I started writing Amy’s Amazon in Autumn of 2010, and wrote the bulk of it in three phases over two years, wile on different trips to Spain and Australia. Editing began in Autumn 2012, and finished in December. Then it went to the publisher and printer, and there are now 1,000 copies sitting in boxes in my living room!!! The Launch date is currently planned for April or May, so please do keep checking the website and social media channels for updates! 🙂

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