One of my great unstarted projects for the last five years has been to crack on with writing my first(ish) novel. This week I finally laid down my first words …

graves-2013Back in 2009 I wrote my second (readable) short story. It was called Graves and found its way onto the internet on December 30 of that year. I’d dabbled with Smashwords a little before that, publishing a short story I’d written several years earlier called Colder Still, but Graves really represented my first genuine effort to get serious about my writing.

The story was pretty well received and gave me a good deal of motivation for carrying on. One of the more consistent comments I saw from people was that they’d love to see a longer version, a novel-length version. For a while I put those thoughts aside: I’d written the story I wanted to tell and didn’t really see any way of expanding it into a novel without breaking the story.

It took about three years, during which I was busy writing other stories (rarely quite as well received as Graves), for me to realise that there was another way I could tell the story. There were some questions left (deliberately) unanswered in Graves; there was a bit of backstory that had only been hinted at; there were some reasons for things happening that I had chosen not to share with the reader. In short, there were opportunities for telling the same story on a larger canvas without undermining the story I’d already told, while still give readers something entirely new.

It was over the last two years that the last couple of bits fell into place. While I’d had an idea about why things happened the way they did in Graves, I realised pretty quickly that what I’d originally had in mind wouldn’t bear up to the level of plotting required for, and scrutiny applied to, a novel. After a bit of mental sparring, I eventually came up with an answer I liked for that problem. I also married Graves to a half-idea I’d had for a story many years ago, something that would give my main character some solid background, and something that would work entirely for the story I now had in mind.

Obviously I can’t tell you any more at this point or I’d have to kill you…

The next step was to write the damn thing. Aside from the plotting issues, I needed to get my writing discipline to the point where I could have enough faith in myself that writing a full novel became a realistic prospect. When I tell you that my last story (There Is A Light … ) took me more than two years to write, you’ll understand why I hesitate here.

Luckily the morning shift came to my rescue. While I can’t claim to be pounding the words out, I am at least writing on most days of the week now. Since I started the morning shift last year I’ve completed a handful of stories, re-edited a few others, and written first drafts of three entirely new stories. Not a bad run.

Anyway, last week I finished the final draft of my latest story. While I’ve got no shortage of other writing projects to get on with (not the least of which is to finish editing my short story collection) I hadn’t lined up anything specific to work on for the next day. I spent two mornings doing a quick edit of one of my other stories (Strawberries) for the collection.

The day after that I sat down and wrote the first page or two of the Graves novel.

I’ve had the first couple of paragraphs in my head for quite a while now, and decided it was finally time to get it down on paper. Encouragingly, the story began to find its own way as I wrote it down. I did another few pages the next morning and continued to enjoy what was appearing on the page. Meanwhile various ideas for later chapters kept popping into my head. It seems like it might be time at last for this book to get written.

Don’t get too excited. While I’m planning to release it in four separate volumes, it’ll be an absolute minimum of 3-4 months before I have anything that’s remotely ready to read. At my current rate it’ll take around a year for the whole thing to be done, but you can easily add another 6-12 months to that.

Still, first steps …