‘Kylie’ Blooper reel

 

 

You will probably remember that last week I sent a copy of The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl to pop-star Kylie Minogue, as a thank you for being the original inspiration for the novel.

Well a week later and oddly Kylie hasn’t been in touch. Yet. But then she’s probably still reading the book, isn’t she? Yes, yes – of course she is. That’ll be the reason.

In the meantime however, the video I recorded explaining what I was up to, seemed to go down REALLY well.

So as a sort of thank you to everyone who shared it, and to brighten up your day if it isn’t sparkly enough, I thought you might like to see the blooper reel; “Peter Jones – he has this thing…”

Click here if you can’t see the video above or you’re reading this in an email


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Hot news; my debut novel The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl is part of Amazon’s 99p Summer Book Promotion. Get my quirky, lad-lit, rom-com for less than a quid! But hurry – the promo is for July only!

The film will be along some time in the next decade.

Why I'm sending a copy of The Good Guy's Guide To Getting The Girl to Kylie Minogue!

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Last year I sent a copy of The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl to pop-star Kylie Minogue to thank her for being the original inspiration for the novel all those years ago.

Thanks to Bono from U2, she probably never received it.

However, now that there’s a new edition available (click here to check that out) – well, it seems like a marvellous opportunity to try again, and this time I have a cunning plan…

Find out more by watching the 3 minute video below (just press play), and check back here (or on facebook) in a few days time to see if my plan was a success!

(If you can’t see the video, click here to jump over to YouTube and watch it there).


TGGGTGTG sidebar

Hot news; my debut novel The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl is part of Amazon’s 99p Summer Book Promotion. Get my quirky, lad-lit, rom-com for less than a quid! But hurry – the promo is for July only!

The film will be along some time in the next decade.

Who could play which part in a movie of 'The Good Guy's Guide To Getting The Girl'?

TGGGTGTG cinema

A while back Michelle Ward of Phoenix FM asked me – live on air – who would play which part, were The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl ever made into a film.

At the time I didn’t know how to answer the question, but only because I have an absolutely shocking memory for names, and when asked to recall the name of someone I should know, unless they’re called Mum or Dad, there’s a gaping hole in my memory where that name should be. (It’s so bad I once turned up at my local writer’s circle and made everyone wear name badges for the evening. True story.)

ANYWAY… truth is, I did know, and have always known, who would (or could) play each role, were my novel suddenly destined for the silver screen.

Back in those early heady days of bashing out the book, my friend Wendy criticised me for being a little scant on my character description. “I don’t know what these people look like,” she said. I mumbled some rubbish about wanting my readers to make up their own mind and she probably gave me one of her looks, because I went straight home and spent the next few hours on google finding images of actors & actresses that reminded me of the characters I’d created. I printed those pictures off, stuck them on the notice board in my office, and glanced up at it frequently whenever I was writing.

Here then, are those pictures. And I’d love to know what you think. Post your thoughts, feelings, or alternative casting ideas in the comments at the bottom of this page (or here if you’re reading this in an email)

Alex (Nick Frost)Alex (Nick Frost)

“This mine?” asked Alex. He drained two thirds, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, let out a satisfied belch, then sat down next to me. “Where’s yours?” he asked, after a moment or two. I stared at a fleck of melting snow caught in the stubble on his face and the pathetic strands of damp blond hair glued to a forehead that had once sported an impressive quiff.

I’ve always admired Nick Frost, and I have no doubt whatsoever that he’d be absolutely perfect for the role of Alex so long as someone keeps him in a permanently bad mood throughout the shooting of the movie. (Alex doesn’t smile. Or laugh. Or joke.)

James Corden might also be good for the role if you could get him to stop smiling for two seconds.

Melanie (Jessica Alba)Melanie (Jessica Alba)

“Jason?” I looked up into two gorgeous emerald green eyes, and froze. Those were her eyes. My field of vision widened to take in her nose. Regal in nature. That was definitely her nose. Then there was the slightly coy, but nonetheless playful smile. And those beautiful white teeth. And that hair, tumbling out from under a cerise beret – even though she was now a blonde my heart wasn’t fooled for a moment; it was still her. And all at once I was fourteen again, trombone in hand, looking across at her from my place in the brass section.

It’s just not possible to make a movie these days without a token American – not if you want that movie to be shown anywhere other than good old blighty. So here’s mine. Jessica Alba. She’s the kind of woman who you imagine she’d probably be in soft focus, even if you met her in real life, and as such she would be absolutely perfect in the role of Jason’s old school crush, Melanie.

Liz (Rachel Weisz)Liz (Rachel Weisz)

She was wearing one of my sweaters. And though it was gigantic on her petite frame, it looked good on her. Certainly better than it did on me, although any hint of a bosom was lost within its deep woollen folds. Still, I liked the way her hair fell long and straight to the centre of her back, and though I’d long since given up on seeing her in some sort of skirt or dress, those skinny jeans were very flattering. I could almost fancy her if she wasn’t – well, if she wasn’t Liz.

Jason’s girlfriend Liz – who becomes and ex-girlfriend pretty much by the end of the first page – needs to be played by an actress who can pull off fierce & domineering, but not in such a way that you’re left wondering why Jason would go for such a woman in the first place. Rachel Weisz – seen here pulling her hair out in frustration – is such a actress.

Sian (Rebecca Hall)Sian (Rebecca Hall)

“Jason – come on!” said Sian, leaning back in her chair and opening her arms. “I’m a ten minute cab ride from you! I guarantee there will be no boring people, everything Sainsbury’s has to offer in the way of alcohol and, best of all,” she lowered her voice for a moment, “it’s fancy dress!! Woohoo!!” Sian jigged around in her chair with as much energy as office etiquette would allow, her skinny arms going up and down like pistons, her head rolling from side to side to the sound of the music in her head, all in an effort to demonstrate what larks awaited me at her party.

Jason’s party loving work colleague needs to be played by a slender woman, who looks every bit the efficient project manager, whilst at the same time being able to carry off an outfit made entirely of black feathers, with a bottle of vodka in her hand.

Gary (Jack Hudson)Gary (Jack Huston)

Though the Batman mask covered most of his face, I knew who it was from the sheer arrogance of his swagger. Whether he was walking to the photocopier, or jumping the queue in the staff canteen, Gary swaggered like he owned the very ground beneath his feet. And now he was swaggering in our direction.

Tricky one this. And I confess to getting some help when it came to finding an actor who would have every woman in the audience swooning, whilst at the same time being a complete and utter bastard. Mr Hudson looks like he’d have no problem playing such a role, though I’m sure he’s positively delightful in real life.

Charlotte (Keira Knightly)Charlotte (Keira Knightly)

If anyone ever doubted the existence of God, Charlotte was proof that he was alive and well. No one that beautiful could have come into existence without some kind of divine intervention. Tall, slender, elegant, and utterly sexual without even realizing it. Even her starkly conservative, prim and proper clothes became uncharacteristically erotic the longer they remained in contact with her.

Clearly, Business Analyst Charlotte needs to pack some punch when it comes to elegant beauty. Let’s hope Keira Knightly is available.

 

Ria (Gemma Arterton)Ria (Gemma Arterton)

That was the moment I should have slid back out of the door and made my retreat, but instead I craned my head to see the owner of the voice, and saw the confident, swaying, curvaceous rear of a slender woman in tight three-quarter length trousers and strappy heels that flirted with the floor just long enough to keep her upright. Hands with long fingers drew small circles at the end of beautiful bare arms, whilst freckled shoulders supported a head that rolled and flicked a punky mop of the most vivid, poppy-red, bobbed hair I’d ever seen.

Sassy salsa dancing nurse Ria, needs to be played by an actress with the attitude to match. And for several years this picture of Gemma Arterton, which is still on the pin board even now, was consulted each and every time I needed to describe Ria’s beguiling features. What though, you might be asking yourself, would Ms Arterton look like with red hair? I confess that I’d absolutely love to find out.

Dave Fells (Bill Nighy)Dave Fells (Bill Nighy)

“Yeah, but he’s not exactly Hugh Heffner, is he?” said a male voice from around the corner created by the stairwell. The owner of the voice walked into view, a cordless phone wedged between his shoulder and ear whilst he used his hands to light a cigarette. He was taller and older than I’d expected, skinny to the point of being undernourished, but the ripped jeans and faded Iron Maiden t-shirt were somehow exactly what I’d envisaged.

Every movie needs to good cameo appearance, and Bill Nighy would be bloomin’ awesome in the role of glamour photographer Dave Fells

Jason Smith (???)Jason Smith

“You still here?”

I sat bolt upright, startled by the sound of someone else in my flat.

“Err – yes. Hold on!” I yelled back, whilst I tried to manage the questions filling up my head: Who was I? Where was I? What time was it? What day was it? Who was the person downstairs? Why were they announcing their presence? Why did they seem surprised that I was here? And why did it feel like I’d only had four hours’ sleep?

Answers started coming back, though not necessarily in the order that I’d asked them: Martin the builder. He had a key. I was at home. In bed. He expected me to be at work. Which meant that it was Monday, past nine in the morning, and I’d overslept, again, because I’d been surfing the internet until the small hours. Which meant I was Jason Smith, from Essex, England. I felt both better and worse all at the same time.

The one thing I really can’t stand, when reading a novel, is creating an image of what the lead character looks like in my head, only to discover a few pages later that I have him or her completely wrong. Especially if I’m supposed to identify with this character or fall in love with them. So forgive me if I seem somewhat reluctant to share my casting ideas for Jason, because until that momentous day when someone does decide this story is worthy of the silver screen, I think it’s important that Mr Smith looks exactly like you want him to look. That said, I am quite intrigued as to  what that would be… so feel free to share your Jason casting thoughts with me (and everyone else) in the comments.


TGGGTGTG sidebar

Hot news; my debut novel The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl is part of Amazon’s 99p Summer Book Promotion. Get my quirky, lad-lit, rom-com for less than a quid! But hurry – the promo is for July only!

The film will be along some time in the next decade.

Now 8% funnier!

TGGGTGTG-drop-shadow
“Why don’t you go and do some writing?” That’s what my wife Kate had said to me.

I returned half an hour or so later with a paragraph or two about how I always hoped Kylie Minogue might break down outside my flat, and how – having discovered that her mobile phone was dead – she’d choose my door (from the multitude of doors available to her) to knock and ask if she could borrow my landline. And this – this seemingly unlikely event – would be how destiny would finally bring the two of us together!

Kate roared with laughter. “That,” she said, “would make an excellent first chapter.”

First chapter? I was just killing time.

But back in September, ten long years after writing that initial scene, I published my debut novel – The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl. The book that Kate had encouraged me to write. The one that she hoped would allow us to sell up and move to warmer climes. The one she never got to read.

top 10

Putting the book out there was pretty scary. I’ve written (or co-written) four other titles, but I wasn’t anywhere near as emotionally invested in those books, as I was in this one.

When the book climbed to number 9 in Women’s Contemporary Humorous Fiction I was besides myself with joy… when it fell out of the charts a few days later, only to fall and keep falling, I was heartbroken. I felt like I’d failed. Worse still, I felt like I’d failed Kate. The money was running out, my days as a full-time author seemed to be numbered.

Well maybe not.

In much the same way that the first edition of ‘Happy’ eventually got the attention of Audible, an agent, and Harper Collins – my little novel found it’s way into the offices of people with considerably more clout than me – and earlier this year I signed not one, but two contracts – the upshot of which means that today, Thursday 21st May, Good Guy Jason Smith gets another shot at the big time. Behold the revamped, re-released, second edition of The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl.

It’s not massively different to the original: A few tweaks here and there to make it a little less ‘blokey’. A brighter, more feminine version of the original cover. I’ll be blogging about some of the other differences between this edition and it’s forerunner in the coming days, but for now all you really need to know is that it’s still the amusing tale of a thirty something guy, and his somewhat unorthodox attempts to find the woman of his dreams at the turn of the century. All made up. Honestly. And the perfect summer read whilst you soak up some rays, or take cover from a monsoon.

Right now the ebook version is little more than a couple of quidthat’s less than the price of a cup of coffee – and you can download it from amazon and read it on your kindle, your ipad, your smart phone, even your mac or pc. Or, if you’re more retro, for a few quid more there’s always the paperback.

And am I scared? No. Well, maybe just a bit. But this time around things feel more ‘right’ than before. This time around I think Kate would be proud.


My hour long talk entitled ‘How I Met Kylie Minogue‘ is the story of how I came to write this novel. Drop me a line if you’d fancy getting me along to your group, society, or ‘after dinner’ event. In the meantime…

TGGGTGTG sidebar

Hot news; my debut novel The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl is part of Amazon’s 99p Summer Book Promotion. Get my quirky, lad-lit, rom-com for less than a quid! But hurry – the promo is for July only!

The film will be along some time in the next decade.

Five #Books That Make Excellent #Gifts

presents port
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find gift shopping can be something of a challenge.

It’s not the ‘buying’ of the gift that I find challenging, or the wrapping, or any of that malarky, it’s coming up with an idea in the first place. Just what do you buy your cousin Edwina, the woman who seems to have absolutely everything?? It’s the stuff of nightmares. Many sleepless nights. Perhaps both.

If you’re anything like me the days roll past and before you know it, you’re roaming the aisles of your local shopping centre, desperately hoping inspiration will jump out, shake you by the shoulders, and end it all.

Well relax. This year inspiration has chosen to send you an email. Or a tweet. Or however the heck you stumbled across this blog post. Consider the following…

Books make excellent gifts

You see! And I know what you’re thinking – it’s so obvious now I’ve come to mention it! And here’s something else, books signed by the author are even more special. Ha! No more crappy I-didn’t-know-what-to-get-you-so-I-got-you-this-voucher from you! You’ve just become a master of ‘thoughtful’ gifts.

Now where on earth can you lay your hands on a signed book or two?

Right here is where!

With just a click of your mouse, or a tap of your finger, any one of the five books I’ve penned could be winging their way to you with a personalised greeting inside, or a simple ‘Best Wishes’ if you want to keep your options open. Simply drop me a line via the Stay In Touch page, then select the book, or books, of your choice from the links BELOW.

TGGGTGTG-drop-shadowThe Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl

My debut novel… if your gift-recipient likes chick lit Rom Coms in the style of Nick Hornby or Mike Gayle, this could well be right up their street.

Buy it signed here 

SDSWHow to Start Dating and Stop Waiting

If they need a real guide to getting the girl, or guy, this is it. Written for everyone who’s ever found dating a challenge, dating websites to be less than fulfilling, or ‘first dates’ terrifying… How To Start Dating And Stop Waiting will help them dodge the liars, & Lotharios, and have them dating Mr or Ms Right in no time.

Buy it signed here 

How To Be even more Attractive

The smaller, quirkier, companion guide to the previous title. Let me fix those underlying problems that make your otherwise attractive charming gift-recipient even more attractive to those they’d like to date.

Buy it signed here 

cover with drop shadow

How to Do Everything and Be Happy

The book that started it all: ‘How To Do Everything and Be Happy’ is a book for ordinary people. With ordinary lives. It’s for people who have been ambling along and wondering why they’re not – well – just that little bit happier.

Buy it signed here 

ELSS-drop-shadow-colourHow to Eat Loads and Stay Slim

And finally.. How To Eat Loads and Stay Slim. It isn’t a diet book. Not in the traditional sense. It’s a book packed full of thought provoking, scientifically-provable, ideas and changes you can make to your life to increase your chances of being slim. Now that’s a gift that keeps on giving!

Buy it signed here 

Music, to write to

 

1052f-musicandwriting

The internet is a wonderful place.

For instance, the other day I came across a ‘poll’ of Thirty Two people (I know!! Thirty two people! Not exactly extensive, or statistically viable, but bear with me…) that posed the following question important question:

When writing, what would you prefer to hear in the background?

Here are the fascinating results:

Loud music with vocals – 6%
Loud music, instrumental only – 3% (ie. one person!)
Music, but unobtrusive – 21%
Normal background noise – 15%
A quiet room/house – 40%
Silence (earplugs) – 12%

For me it’s a complex question – because the music that I have playing in the background is an essential part of my writing process. For instance, there are a number of scenes in my novel (The Good Guys Guide to Getting The Girl – find out more here) when poor old Jason manages to screw up another promising relationship, or where his affections aren’t reciprocated, or where he feels like he’ll never meet the girl of his dreams. Writing these scenes could be a challenge, particularly if I wasn’t feeling that way myself, and unlike some authors who seem to live in a permanent dream-world where their characters seem so real to them that they no longer have any control over what they say or do, writing for me is more like theatre where I play every part. For this reason I usually need something to help me get into character, and music is the fastest way I know.

Here are some of the tracks I listened to (over and over) whilst constructing those heart breaking scenes (and if I’ve done this properly some of them link to youtube where you can listen for yourself)

A&E, Goldfrapp
Photos, The London Metropolitan Orchestrafrom the movie ‘Cashback’
Things You’ve Never Done, Passenger
Suzy, The London Metropolitan Orchestra – ‘Cashback’ again
Driving With The Brakes On, Del Amitri
One True Love, Semisonic
Now Comes the Night, Rob Thomas
Elevator Beat, Nancy Wilson from the movie ‘Vanilla Sky’
Wise Up, Aimee Mannfrom the movie Magnolia
My Stupid Mouth, John Mayerawesomely funny, sad song. Judging by the comments of YouTube, some guys feel about this song the way some girls do about the movie ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’
Drawing, The London Metropolitan Orchestra – ‘Cashback’ again!
In Your Arms, Kina Grannisa fabulous lovely song, but really quite sad. The video is amazing but seems to me to be totally at odds with the mood of the song.

Notice that quite a few of them are taken from movie soundtracks. Movie soundtracks are a great source of mood inducing music (much of it instrumental) because, obviously, that’s the point of the music in a movie.

Likewise, for the scenes where it seems like Jason might be winning, where a new girl enters his life, or a date goes particularly well, maybe even really, really well (if you know what I mean), I came up with a selection of songs to get me jumping around in my chair, my pulse racing, or whatever else was needed to give the scene the necessary ‘ka-pow’

Toxic, Britney Spearsregardless of what you might think of Britney, this is a great song
Would You…?, Touch and Go – very sexy
God Put a Smile On Your Face, Mark Ronson
Must Be Dreaming, Frou Frou – this song makes my heart feel like it’s going to burst
The Sweet Escape, Gwen Stefani – whereas this one just makes me smile and smile 🙂
Come What May, Nicole Kidman & Ewan McGregor
Let’s Get It On, Marvin Gaye
Lifeline, Imogen Heap – I prefer the instrumental version, the lyrics tend to get in the way when I’m trying to write
Oh Yeah, Yello

So, good people of the internet, I’m interested to know whether anyone else does anything similar? Post your comments in the box below! Looking forward to reading them.

why its impotent to have the rite grandma and prefect smelling

spelling

Why a misplaced hyphen can dash your hopes of ever being published.

My first real literary ‘rejection’ came at the hands of an agent who we’ll call Jane Slash. On the day that Ms Slash received my manuscript she’d clearly discovered that her husband was indeed the cheating scumbag she’d always suspected he was. Moments later she burnt both slices of toast, the cat threw up all over her white carpet, and she broke a heel on her favourite shoes. I don’t know this for sure of course, but I’m guessing it must be the case because when the first three chapters of The Good Guys Guide to Getting The Girl arrived on her desk she wasted no time in telling me how much she hated it. And my god, how she hated it.

I can’t recall off the top of my head all the things she said (although me being me, I assembled them into a list and diligently worked through each point over the following months) but I do remember her final scathing comment:

“Further more the manuscript is littered with typos which is very distracting, and shows a somewhat careless and slapdash approach to your writing.” Or words to that effect.

It was this remark that stung the most. Whilst I was prepared to take on board everything else she’d said, the one thing I was pretty sure I had nailed down was my spelling, and grammar. Throughout my entire professional life nothing I’d written had ever left my computer without being run through the internal spell check, and then read through by myself and my colleagues. Even the pages Jane was busy using to stoke the fire under her cauldron had been scrutinised by several sets of eyes.

“There’s nothing wrong with those chapters,” said my mate Pat, “and I should know!” Pat’s an English teacher somewhere in the south-east of England. And given what happened next, maybe that’s as much as I should tell you about him. Or her. I’m not saying.

“Well let’s find out!” I said. “Jules -” (that’s my long suffering assistant) “find me a proof reader!”

Which was how I came to meet Alison the Proof Fairy. I duly sent Alison the same first three chapters and expected to have them sent back with a covering email telling me that she couldn’t find anything to correct.

Boy howdy – how wrong I was.

I’ve just had a quick look at the document Alison returned to me – for old times sake – and believe me when I say I can feel my cheeks glowing again, just as they did almost two years ago. I’d include the file here for you to look at, if I wasn’t too ashamed to do so.

Needless to say I learnt several very important lessons:

Firstly, regardless of how you rate your attention to detail, unless you proof for a living it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll spot all the errors in your own writing. You’re just too darn close to it. But more surprising, unless your friends are professional readers (and may I respectfully point out that being a teacher doesn’t seem to be close enough), neither will they!

Secondly, agents don’t actually seem to accept anything. They reject. As would you if you had a mountain of manuscripts to get through. You’d work through those chapters looking for reasons to throw them out, until you finally unearthed the one document that hadn’t, in any way, made you want to toss it across the room.

Finally, two years on, having published How To Do Everything and Be Happy, with a further two titles waiting in the wings, I realise more than ever the importance of perfect spelling and grammar. I simply can’t take the risk that one of my readers might come across a typo. Particularly if that reader turned out to be Jane Slash. Heaven knows what she might do.


You can find out more about Alison the Proof Fairy and the services she offers at theprooffairy.co.uk

5,497

redpenBack in July you may remember that I told you how, after six years, my novel is almost finished.

Oh my god how wrong you can be.

Let me bring you up to speed on a few things: At the time of writing I had an agent, who, having read the first three chapters, liked the book and wanted to see the rest. Which would have been fine if the rest was just sitting around ready to be sent – but, it wasn’t. Hence the flurry of activity to finish it, and the aforementioned blog post.

A few weeks after typing the words THE END, the agent got back to me and invited me to ‘pop into her offices’ for a chat. There I sat, surrounded by books written by her other clients, whilst she told me that she really liked my manuscript – but she’d like it a whole lot more if I made some changes – namely;

  • lose a character,
  • add two more chapters,
  • bring the word count down to 90,000 words.

The first two items were achieved within a few days, but the third… well I’ve been struggling. As my novel weighed in at 115,000 words I was faced with having to cut 25,000.

This is what I tried first

  1. made a list of every scene in the book (actually I had this already – a great tip that I picked up many years ago)
  2. identify any scene that didn’t move the plot on – cut it
  3. identify any scene in my heart of hearts I didn’t actually like – try and cut it
  4. identify the wordier scenes – trim them agressively.

Two weeks ago I was down to 103,000 words. Still 13,000 left to cut.

Out of desperation I printed off the entire manuscript (something that my friend Wendy told me to do from the off), sat down with a red pen, and read the whole thing looking for anything that could go by the wayside, and a weeks later I was down to 97,000 words.

I’d be depressed if it wasn’t for the following
– I have an inch thick pile of pages covered in red pen that I’m working through (probably another 1000 words in there)
– I have a list of seven scenes that I could cut (though god help me I really don’t want to)
– the book is actually better.

And that’s the bit that’s really taken me by surprise.

Weeks ago my friend Della Galton told me my book would be better for the level of cutting I was embarking upon – and by golly she was right. Somehow, the very act of taking out the weaker words, scenes, and in a couple of cases whole chapters, has distilled what was left, and made for a much stronger story.

But please God I hope my agent doesn’t want me to lose any more. As of this morning I’ve still got 5,497 words to find.

Almost Done


Almost-DoneSix and a half years after starting my novel, the end finally in sight.

I have almost finished my novel.

Let me put that into perspective: the book that I started writing on or around the 10th of October 2004 is almost complete. So why has it taken me so long? What – you may ask – have I been doing for the last six and half years?

Let’s back up a bit. First you need to know that I never intended to write a novel. Originally it was just a short story that amused my wife. And that was fatal, because having made her laugh she then suggested that I ought to continue the story, and turn it into a book.

Easy for her to say! This was the woman who would read a novel a week, sometimes two! This was the woman who would pack at least half a dozen books in our joint luggage, and supplement those with two or three tomes that she’d purchase at the airport. As far as my wife was concerned telling me to write a novel was akin to suggesting I put the kettle on and make a brew – whereas from my perspective she may as well have asked me to walk to India to pick the tea-leaves, and fetch the water from the frozen glaciers of Tibet on my way home.

But then, curiosity got the better of me. Maybe I could write a book. And maybe the way to tackle the task at hand was to treat it as a series of linking short stories? Write a chapter, and when I was satisfied that it was the absolute best it could be, move onto the next chapter?

And that was my first mistake. After three long years I’d written half a dozen chapters of utter rubbish. They were indeed ‘the best that I could do’, but the truth of the matter is, ‘my best’ just wasn’t very good.

Fortunately, around this time Apple invented the iPod. And soon after someone invented the podcast. And as a direct consequence Mur Laffety became a regular part of my car journeys. It was she who gave me (and the other listeners of her excellent podcast ‘I should be writing‘) the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever had: when writing a novel, write the WHOLE book – start to finish – BEFORE going back to edit. And in the absence of anything that was working, that is exactly what I did. A year and a bit later (29th of March 2009 to be precise), I’d finished the FIRST draft.

Several other things had happened too. I’d joined a writer’s group. I was reading and listening to every bit of writing advice I could lay my hands and ears on. And most important of all, I was a much better writer.

This, it turns out, was the power of Mur’s advice. There’s something about putting one word in front of another that makes you better at writing, just as putting one foot in front of another makes you better at walking, or running. Have you ever watched a toddler learning to walk? Right after they’ve fallen flat on their face, they pick themselves up and try again. They don’t analyse the last few steps, or wait for feedback from their peers, they keep moving forward. It’s how they get better at walking. And it’s how I got, and continue to get, better at writing. Just a year or so after I churned out diabolical chapter number six, I was two hundred thousand words better equipped to fix it. That, and the other forty four chapters.

The last two and a bit years have been spent editing. Yes I know what you’re thinking. Two and a bit years!! Only now am I getting to a point where I think I might have a handle on what proper editing involves – that however, will have to be the topic of a future post. What I’m keen to know is if this tale rings any bells. How long did it take you to finish your first novel? Why was that? And what lessons did you learn along the way? Post your comments below – I look forward to reading them. In the meantime, I’ve got a book to finish.


Originally written for amwriting.org

It's time to update your website – An old intro page

 

 

 

“You really ought to update your homepage,” said my wife.
“Why? What’s wrong with it?”
“It’s over a year old!”
“Really?” I said. She hates it when I say that.
“Yes!” She said looking around the room for a blunt instrument.

So, over a year then. Blimey. That means this website is nearly TWO years old. And what have I got to show for it? Fifteen feeble attempts at writing, most of which were written a long time ago. I mean a really long time ago. Long before the internet even existed. I know, I know, how is that even possible?

So what on earth have I been doing all this time? Well, aside from earning a living and all that other stuff that gets in the way of putting words on paper (or screen), most of my writing energies have actually been focused on a novel.
“A novel?” I hear you say, “what, like a book, like?”
“Yes,” I reply. “Exactly like a book. Like.”

I don’t want to reveal too much at this stage, but I genuinely have nine and a half chapters written (all first draft obviously, but give me some credit here). And most of those have been written in the last few months so I’m definitely getting faster, if not actually “better”. You can read excerpts on this website – I may post more excepts in the next few weeks if the whim takes me.

So there you are. Even though I haven’t added many new items in the past few months, it’s not like I’ve been sitting around doing bugger all. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. Ok, look, I promise I’ll try harder – there, are you happy now?

Thanks again to anyone and everyone who has sent me the occasional word or two of encouragement. It’s very much appreciated, if not 100% deserved. If you’d like to be kept informed of when I update this website (stop laughing at the back there), please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

Happy reading and best wishes,