FOR a year, maybe even more, I’d sweated over every angle of this novel. From the first germ of an idea which arrived when my West Ham-loving sports editor at a London national bellowed across the room “What are those taffs up to, then?” I’ve been fixated on my plan.
I say plan, but the whole format was pretty loose to be honest with you, and changed every time a little spark came into my head.
They were so thick and fast, these sparks, that no sooner had I thought of one ‘brilliant’ idea than another would come along soon after, like London buses or agent offers (only kidding).
I had spent every spare moment – when I wasn’t baby sitting or zipping up and down the motorway from Bristol to do my day job in the smoke – thinking about it, angonising over it, writing it and rewriting it.
Even in those moments when writing seemed impossible I found I could do something to progress the story. Keeping a Dictaphone handy in the car, during M4 traffic jams I was able to ad-lib part of the novel rather than fume and rant at inanimate objects, like the motorway signs informing me of lane closures or accidents.
At work, in what little downtime I had, I would tap out a couple of hundred words on the computer, email it to myself, then copy it over onto the main body of the novel when I got the chance.
After leaving Bristol at 10am, driving three hours up to London on the motorway, getting the tube into work, doing an eight or nine our shift, getting the tube back to the car, then driving the hour or so to Southend at 11pm at night to slum it on my eldest daughter’s sofa, I still found time to tap out a line or two before falling asleep on the keyboard and obliterating it all by lying on the delete button.
It was an obsession all right, and it was an obsession because I thought I had it, an idea, a masterpiece, a best seller. Imagine how it then feels when a published author tells you that you’ve got it all wrong.
Still, reading through Richard’s critique again (as I realise he is only trying to do me a favour, I’m calling him by his proper name again now, not the *1+&!@ one I’d given him after first reading it), I picked out a few things that I could change. To refresh your memory, this is what he said…
My protagonist was never at the scene of the main incidents. He was mainly having them relayed to him. Perhaps he shouldn’t be a sports editor, he should be a reporter so that he was always at the centre of the story and what was going on.
Damn, so the whole thing I’d based the story on – my old boss – was wrong. I had to kill him off and start again. Horrible term though it is (and there are many times when I’ve wistfully dreamed of bumping off bosses off in the past), I guess this is what writers mean when they say that sometimes you have to “kill your babies”.
Take centre stage Gareth Prince, a bit-part reporter until now. A Welsh boy through and through he now has to become a cockney and the star of the show. In my fledgling role as a novellist serial killer, It was time to dispose of my first baby.
So long, Micky Biggs, I’ve got to love you and leave you…