Writing has always been not just a part of my life but a part of me; ideas come spontaneously, and the desire to sit down and write is not just compulsive but intensely enjoyable. It comes so naturally that I have adopted it as my motto – the only thing I cannot imagine is NOT writing. I was writing all the way through my GCSEs, A-Levels and Degree. When I started work, I would use my lunch hours to fill notebooks with scribbles. There were plenty of manual tasks that allowed my brain to wander off and create narrative. I once found myself thinking that if something terrible happened to my nearest and dearest, my writing would provide something to live for. Even if I was never published, I would always write. Nothing could get in the way of that.
And then I had children.
It sounds like such a cliché that it goes against all my instincts to write it. But between the birth of my first child and the day when my third child started pre-school, I wrote nothing. That’s a period of seven years. Seven years! I’ve never stopped to add it up before and it has shocked me. How did I let that happen?
Well, obviously, I was pretty busy being a mum. Three children are pretty time-consuming. I had the privilege of staying at home to look after them full-time, something I really loved. Those days of going to the park, and playdates, and games and reading stories were great fun and I enjoyed being able to spend so much time with my children when they were young. I wouldn’t change that for the world. Besides, it wasn’t the lack of time that stopped me writing. I’m sure if I had really needed to, I would have found the time to get something written, just like I had done all my life when I was supposed to be busy with other things. The truth is that the reason I stopped writing was because I just wasn’t having any ideas. My head was so full of the children that there just wasn’t room for ideas. Children are hungry for attention and they even consume your thoughts. When I was with them, there was no opportunity for idle daydreaming, no paths to those narratives that had been the lifeblood of my ideas. And being a stay-at-home mum meant I was with my children on a permanent basis for all those seven years. So I finally learnt the one thing that could stop me writing – no time to think.
Then in 2011, when my youngest child was 2, he started going to preschool, while his older sisters were at school. Just two mornings a week, but they were my first regular child-free hours in seven years. And I started writing instantly. I even had a new novel lined up ready to go, because by this time, some ideas were starting to creep back in. Rather surprisingly, the one idea that had come to the fore was a very old idea, one that I would never have expected to find so interesting. It was the story inspired by the marbles that I wrote about in my last blog, that I had dismissed because it was fantasy, and I didn’t write fantasy anymore. But somewhere amidst the fun of parks and parties and painting, the idea of turning this story from fantasy to a historical novel had broken through the blockade. I don’t remember how or when, probably because I wasn’t expecting it to happen. Some random chance made it happen just at the moment when I was getting my thinking time back and I took advantage of it. I was hungry to start writing again and used my free hours to write and write. As my son’s hours at pre-school increased, so did my writing time. When he started school full-time, I was able to write non-stop between the hours of 9 and 3, and that is what I did. It had always been my dream to write full-time and now I was actually doing that.
Even with all that time, it took me a while to write The Most Beloved Boy. When I began, I expected it to be quite a short novel, ending at one particular point. Then another idea came to me, one of those ideas that can’t be unimagined, which added a completely new section. So I kept writing. I was also beginning to feel that my writing was reaching a new level of maturity. I have read so much fiction by now that I know what I like and what I don’t, and I was applying this to my own writing, working harder on the style, being ruthless with editing. I finished the first draft in 2014, a whopping 39 chapters, the longest thing I had ever written. I instantly began rewriting it, and I worked on editing it for another two years. And when it was done, I knew it was the best thing I had ever written. Maybe that break of seven years had been good for me.
And other things had changed since writing my first novels. The days of printing off a manuscript and passing it around friends and family were behind me, thanks to the wonders of Kindle Direct Publishing. I researched this option while I was still writing the novel and was thrilled to learn that anyone can upload a novel to Kindle and publish on-line, for free! Even if I only did it to make it easier for friends and family to read, it was worth doing. I think writing the novel with this endgame in mind really helped, because there is nothing more soul-destroying than the futility of trying to find a publisher. I know there are thousands of people out there writing, and publishers can’t publish everything, but why should finding a publisher be harder than actually writing the novel itself? I was sure my novel deserved a chance to be out there, and finally I was going to give it that chance. So in October 2016, The Most Beloved Boy went live on Kindle. So far, I have sold eleven copies and made a grand total of £3.19 in royalties! Am I disappointed? Hell no, I’m only just beginning!
PS – Here’s the link to The Most Beloved Boy on Amazon – Publications It only costs £1. You can even read the first three chapters for free!