It is the first May bank holiday already and I can’t believe where the year is going. Traditionally the period between Christmas and Easter at work is a slower time for me. It’s a chance to sit back, see where things are at with my systems and start on development work. This year, more than many, my development work is taking me down new avenues, testing my problem solving skills and my ability to absorb new codes and software faster than ever.
Somewhere in the middle of this, I found myself embarking on the final part of my journey with ‘The Helion Band’. The book I have been working on since 2019. As I sit here, writing this, the book as been submitted to Amazon. Advance print copies have been ordered, and advance reviews are starting to flow in. The kindness of the words from complete strangers has left me embarrassed and slightly bewildered. It has also left me reflecting on where it all began.
This book started with a single sharp image. An elegant woman, dignified and silent, at the helm of a spaceship on a collision course with the heart of a sun. I genuinely can’t remember now where that image came from, most of the beginnings of stories come to me in the early hours, itching away until I do something with them. The final story doesn’t necessary even end up containing a corresponding scene (this is true of this one), but the emotions and thoughts always remain. It remains the engine room of my imagination as the words start to flow.
This has been possibly the hardest thing I have ever done. Harder certainly than any of my three degrees, than any project I have done at work. The journey was a long one. I work full-time and spend most of my working day sat at a computer screen. Spending another hour or so in the evening usually doesn’t appeal. However, when I do finally write, I write fast. 4K in a single day is not unusual for me when the scenes are flowing.
However, having an imagination is no good without the knowledge of how to apply it. As with my system work, I may have known what I wanted to achieve, but I did not have the skills to achieve it. I wrote as if I was producing an academic paper, rather than a novel. I didn’t bother with anything so prosaic as a plot outline, instead collecting inspirational images of the world that I wanted to create. I knew I needed help.
I invested in getting those skills by attending a series of writing retreats with Global Wordsmiths. I still remember the first morning of the initial retreat. Sat nervously, knowing that nearly everyone else in the room had already published and wondering what exactly I had got myself into. I had turned up armed with 40k words, and a few of them were perhaps even in the right place. By the end of that week, I had a fuller understanding of the enormity of the task ahead if I was to actually publish. I also had found a group of people, of friends, who would stay with me throughout the journey, supporting and encouraging me as I learnt the craft, and applied it as best as I could. Finally, after two years, my first draft was finished. That was when I learnt that writing the book was actually the easy bit. The editing was going to be far harder. Again, with expert help I finessed the words until finally a novel sat in front of me that could be set free.
So now, it is about to be published and I have to do the final bit, the public relations and marketing. And somehow that is the hardest part. It feels strange to put my work out on social media, to talk to complete strangers about what has, up to this point, been a private endeavour. Talking to friends and family is even worse. They have already been there by my side throughout, now they actually want to spend their hard-earned money on a buying a copy!
And now I have started the whole process again. I have worked up a new book, and I find myself constantly looking out for the flotsam and jetsam of passing life which might end up reflected in it. Yesterday it was a the sight of Military police walking side-by-side with my local police, today it was a young boy walking along the pavement nonchalantly carrying a traffic cone. My engine room is fired up and the game is afoot. I am an author now, and it feels amazing.