They say a week is a long time in politics. Three years is a long time in the life of a writer.
My fourth novel, Troll Life, was published in October 2018. It sold well, and I knew what I was going to do next.
I had an idea for my fifth novel, and I had the experience of the previous four to know that I could get it written, edited and published within a year.
Three years on and Burying Reggie has finally seen the light of day. What took me so long?
I’m a bit more of a planner than a pantser these days. I plotted out the complete novel and set up my structure in Scrivener. This made the writing so much easier, and I knocked the first draft out in just over a month. So far, so good.
This took me up to March 2019, which coincided with Sunderland heading to Wembley. Another Wembley disappointment shouldn’t be enough to put the brakes on my writing, but that weekend in London was when I first accepted that my heart wasn’t working as it should.
I’ll not bore you with all the medical details, it would be like a tedious episode of Holby City, but two years of tests, procedures, more tests, more time on the operating table to fix the procedure that didn’t work, and ridiculous amounts of medication saps your energy a bit.
Despite all of that going on, I finished my editing, or so I thought, by September 2019.
That coincided with me receiving a bursary from Sunderland Culture and becoming one of their first Creative Development Fellows.
The award paid for a week on an Arvon writing course in Shropshire where I received feedback on Burying Reggie from best-selling authors, Freya North and Mike Gayle. Whilst they thought it was good, they also believed that it could be a lot better. More work to do.
Potentially more significant was the sporadic earnings of a writer. I just about earned enough to survive, but the reluctance of some institutions to pay what they owed me on time became a bit of a drag. After five years as a full-time writer, I returned to the office.
A full-time job, with an impending heart op and an absence of energy, meant that editing ceased to be a priority.
As we headed into 2020, with my heart fixed, I was determined to get the novel finished.
As part of my bursary, I’d purchased a lifetime licence for ProWritingAid, a professional editing tool. It’s great but highlighted how much work I still had to do.
I began chipping away at Burying Reggie, then the pandemic struck. In theory, being stuck in the house, having no commute and no social life, should lead to more writing time.
I have no idea where my time went.
I did a few side projects, mainly plays, and one of them, Parting Shot, particularly well received.
I spent a lot of my time resting, as my heart wasn’t fixed after all.
Fast forward eighteen months, my heart seems to work as it should and the mind numbing exercise of questioning every initial pronoun and ‘sticky word’ is complete.
As torturous as the process has been, initial feedback suggests that it has all been worth it and Burying Reggie is my best novel yet.
I now have the luxury of deciding what to do next. This has been a bit of a millstone around my neck, but now it’s out there, I am free to do what I like. Might be a play, might be a novel, might be a screenplay. It definitely won’t be poetry, but whatever it is, I know that the hard work pays of in the end, no matter how long it takes.