My most recent ‘proper’ writing project, “The Rescue Year”, is one that I feel just a little bit proud of. You see, from inception to being fully typed up and the first wave of edits complete, it has taken just 11 months to bring the story together: 80,000 words, 2.5 A5 notebooks, 300Kb on the memory stick, and a fair amount of coffee. (OK, to be honest, it took 11 months and 10 days, but that’s close enough.)
Maybe this short blog will help explain the work behind the book. Even better, maybe it will inspire someone else to start writing!
Creating the Story
I never intended for the book to ‘happen’ like the above; that’s just the way it went. A paragraph scribbled down each day on the way into work; two pages at a time over a cappucino, whenever in a coffee shop; writing the last 1,000 words on the southbound boat on my last trip to Shetland. I could probably write even more during the year… But given there’s no slacking in my running, work, or everything else that life brings, that’s not a bad tally.
As I’m not yet published (which should hopefully change soon), I can’t offer any credentials of the quality of my writing. I will say what I have probably said before, though: For me, it’s always about the story, about the imagination. If I have a few scenes, a few characters, and can imagine the location… then the story just flows from my pen’s nib.
My stories aren’t thoroughly pre-planned. I may have a starting sequence in mind (where the characters make their way ‘on-stage’, as it were). And I often know sort of how I want it all to end, and even create a rough storyboard… but in between anything can happen. For example, I never intended a dog to feature in The Rescue Year, but at some point he just sort of strolled off the pen and introduced himself.
The downside to all this is that I genuinely feel sad writing the last few paragraphs; knowing that I’m saying goodbye to the characters I’ve grown to know. (And sometimes saying goodbye to a fond location, too.) That’s especially so when the book is a standalone like this one, not part of a series.
About the Book (so far)
So, what is The Rescue Year about? No spoilers – and obviously a literary agent or publisher may well ask for changes – but at the moment, the following is what the blurb’ on the back cover might look like.
The Rescue Year is a story of the future.
But this is not a future of technological marvels and new worlds; it is a future where entropy and division have taken hold.
Into this landscape travel Ewan Rogart and Evie Yatoub, two ‘traders’ from The Isles on an illicit mission. When they rescue a young woman who turns out to be one of the feared and hated ‘snatchers’, their lives are changed forever. They must make the perilous journey to the all-powerful capital, in order to save everyone they know from a terrifying conspiracy.
The Rescue Year will take the reader through the dark streets of a mighty capital where the yeomanry hold sway; along the decks of the sailing ship ‘Hyperion‘; and explore the beautiful but remote islands where those labelled as ‘Recidivists’ live.
OK. I would be lying if I said the whole narrative around Britain’s exit from the EU hadn’t influenced this book (it has). Still, hopefully the reader will be able to bring their own interpretation onto what the story and characters are about. I might also be lying if I said ‘The Isles’ in the book aren’t partly inspired by Shetland… but perhaps I’ll leave it to the reader to imagine the location.
So what happens next? Well, don’t expect this on the bookshelves in time for Christmas, for starters!
The next step is a bit like baking a cake, where you need to leave it to cool after being in the oven. I need to leave the story for a month or two (some would say a year, but I don’t always hold with that), then revisit and proofread it. After that, as I learnt from Sunset (which took so many years to prepare for publication) – I will be looking for a fresh pair of eyes to offer an editorial critique.
And then and then… Then I will be ready to start submitting. I might well have found an agent for Sunset in the interim, but with The Rescue Year being less of an epic, it may well prove easier for a first-time novelist to gain their interest.
So in the quiet hours in between all that and re-submitting Sunset to agents, I will be starting to tell/write another story. Whether that will be bringing Threads or Hamefarin to completion, or something completely new I haven’t decided yet – that’s part of the fun of writing!
Thank you to all who continue to encourage me in this and who give me tips and advice – it really does matter.
As ever, please do keep checking back! The front page of my website will always flag any updates, and I do intend to try and put some short extracts up here. And if I move down the avenue of self-publishing, I will definitely be posting out updates on social media and looking for more advice!