A novel starts as a thought or an observation or character that niggles away in a dark corner of your mind. If there’s something in any of that that’s worthwhile, it becomes an idea and requires serious attention. It might make it as far as an elevator pitch, or a couple of paragraphs. If you’re like me, ideas worth taking forward turn into two- or three-page outlines. Then, with patience and persistence, a 7-10,000 word synopsis. Only then can I start to write.
Of course, all of the above is the start of a long process. Characters need to be fleshed out, their motivations and history scrutinised, their relationships formed and often dismantled. Setting? Scenario? Secrets? They all need to be winkled out, and steadily and painstakingly built into a narrative that is compelling enough to offer to the marketplace.
There’s more, as every writer knows. Honing, polishing, cutting. Proofing, subbing, beta reading, full scale editing.
Somewhere after all of this, a book may emerge. By this stage, you may love it – or be bored rigid. Your characters may seem shallow, the plot contrived. Will anyone want to read it?
If you’re lucky, a book might emerge that you are still excited about, that you think is good, that you hope and pray readers will engage with.
I’m thankful to say that People We Love is one of these books. I’m proud of it. Bestselling novelist Alexander McCall Smith has said kind things about it. My publishers love it. All that remains is for readers to find it and like it too.
That process started at Waterstone’s in Edinburgh on Thursday evening, when the kind staff treated me to a window display, and a host of friends and supporters turned up to celebrate the publication of the paperback. Engaging in a friendly Q&A discussion with top-drawer author and journalist Fred Bridgland, I felt as though I had already secured a slot at the famous Book Festival along the road. Maybe next year …
In the meantime, I had a ball, everyone partied, some kind souls even bought the book, and all I have to do now is sit back and wait for the reviews. I guess that’s when reality may sink in, but in the meantime – hooray! – I’m an author, and I have the proof.
Sincere thanks are due to everyone who has made this miracle possible.
People We Love is available as an ebook and paperback.