Is this the title of my new book? Another blockbuster from Stevenage’s finest?
Sorry, but no.
The blog title is because today marks the fifth anniversary of writing the very first words of 26 Miles to the Moon. At 9:30am on 1st August 2011, in a small box room on the edges of his home town, a nervous yet determined wannabe sat at his desk and typed the initial words of his debut novel. It was either that or sit in his underpants and watch Jeremy Kyle…
Ten things I’ve learned in this time:
1. Writing a book and getting it published is one of the best things I’ve ever done! The reward and benefit in terms of experience and happiness have been invaluable. It’s been a fantastic ride.
2. Writing a book and getting it published is one of the hardest and longest things I’ve ever done! Man, it took a long time. I never complete long projects, and yet somehow I saw this one through. I also had to learn so much along the way just to make it. Sure, it’s hardly climbing Everest, but did Sir Edmund Hillary have to cope with rejection letters, the Oxford comma, Internet forum twats and Friends repeats to distract and hinder him?
3. That you can’t do it alone. You need other people, whether it’s to edit, critique, advise, promote, motivate or just to slap you when you’re being a pretentious “You wouldn’t understand – it’s a writer’s thing” chump.
4. That I can write a good book and make people laugh. Sure, 26 Miles to the Moon is never going to become a classic, poured over for decades, its rapier-like, cutting-edge comedy analysed and copied by future greats…but people like it. I’ve had mostly good feedback and readers that I’ve never met and don’t owe me anything have sent me some wonderful messages. People have actually said they have laughed out loud reading it. I’m proud of that, even if it a took a few cheap nob gags.
5. That you can’t please everyone. After a good year of constant 4 and 5 star reviews, I recently had my first 3 and 2-star ones. Even then the comments weren’t that bad. I’ve learned to grow a thicker skin and accept criticism is part of a writer’s life. Doesn’t stop me shouting “Ignorant bastard!” at the screen before I remember this fact, though.
6. Comfort zones are for wusses. I can swear on live radio, pose for newspapers and magazine photos, sell my book like Del Boy and take to the mic in bookshops to address my peers. When I need to, I can step up. Albeit with wobbly legs.
7. That other writers are all in the same boat and are fantastically supportive. I’ve met dozens of writers – mostly online but also a few in person – and they’re a great bunch. Confident, neurotic, shy, extrovert, wacky, inspirational, tough, disciplined, optimistic, pessimistic, dedicated, determined…whatever traits they have, they’ve make a success of their work and I’m proud to be among them.
8. To manage my own expectations. I admit it – part of me did believe that once it got there, it was destined for international success, book awards and that by now I’d be writing for a living, deposit down on a yacht. I still have that hope and belief, but with the expectation that life doesn’t work like that. It’s a tough, tough business with millions of competitors. You just try your best, expect the minimum and maybe you’ll get lucky. You’ll never stop me dreaming and reaching for it, though.
9.That I have to do it all over again with book 2… but at least with the experience and knowledge of having been through it once before.
10. Finally, that I have to stop looking back and start looking forward. Which means the end of nostalgic blog entries like this!
Half a decade of my life spent plotting, writing, editing and promoting one book.
Time for the next level – which is convenient, as book 2’s plot is nearly ready to start. Let’s go again!
ps Shout out to 2021 Andy – I know you’ll be reading this, 10 years after 26 Miles to the Moon. How’s that yacht? Did you finish book 2? Are you bald yet?
Don’t answer – I’ll find out soon enough…