Its been two months since I dotted the closing sentence in the final paragraph of my novel Breaking News, with a big full stop and a resounding “hallelujah” screamed at the kitchen wall. I can honestly say it’s one of those moments in my life that I’m not likely to forget in a hurry! Writing a novel isn’t easy, especially when it’s a first time effort done without the guidance of an editor, or the luxury of working with a ghost writer!
You may also be wondering why I chose to write it in the kitchen. Well quite simply it seemed the most logical place to continue and finish an enterprise that had consumed the best part of three and a half years of my life. After all the kitchen looks onto a well-kept, restful garden, (a useful and neutral retreat when the going get’s tough!), and it’s also the place where endless supplies of herbal tea are on hand, along with the junk food comforts that one can turn to when writers’ block threatens to impede the flow of words.
I am more than satisfied with the finished product yet at the same time sad at having to say goodbye to it. In the time it’s taken me to complete my book I’ve not only grown to understand my characters and what makes them tick, but I even feel an element of protectiveness towards them. It’s a curious emotion since they’ve been concocted from my imagination and are anything but real people. Yet parting company with them has been a bit like saying goodbye to an old friend that you know you’ll never see again. That’s one of the reasons why writing can sometimes be a lonely, maddening and occasionally heartbreaking experience.
When you’re deeply involved with your characters it’s almost like sharing a personal journey in which your life runs parallel to theirs: you make decisions that shape their destiny at the same time as assessing the choices that will impact on your own. Very rarely are the outcomes ever identical! Worryingly, I even started to dream about my characters, to the extent that in my sleep their parts were performed by some of the acting world’s finest talents. Perhaps it’s no wonder that a girlfriend gave me the telephone number of a psychiatrist when, in a moment of insecurity, I told her there might be something wrong with me: “Honey”, she said to me earnestly, “You’re two steps away from a straight jacket. You’d better give him a ring!”
As a writer you learn to keep the outside world at bay, while personal priorities are ruthlessly placed on the back burner in order to hit that all important publication deadline. The really surprising bit is that when the novel is finished and you finally surface for air, your friends and family greet you with the refrain: “I haven’t seen you for so long I thought you were dead!” That’s when you know the fiction/reality trade-off is well and truly over… unless you’re planning to pick up a pen and start a sequel!
So bearing all that in mind, do I regret the trials and tribulations of the last three and a half years? Absolutely not! Had it not been for having the freedom to choose my working hours and determining exactly how much time I can afford to have on my hands, I don’t think I would ever have got around to fulfilling an ambition that I had nurtured since I was a child.
Too many people say “I’d like to write a novel”, but too few actually get around to doing it. In spite of the loneliness, the frustration when my brain felt as if it was drying up, and the final sadness of parting company with Breaking News’ characters Sally Wozniak, Gerald Hewitt, Tree Salmon et al, I finally got around to starting and finishing my novel: and in the end that’s all that really matters.