Trigger Warning (as I believe the bright young things like to say)- Self-regarding nonsense ahead. Look away if the type to easily cringe.
So there I am. At the start of the month. A first draft crime novel gathering electronic dust in my hard-drive. Been sitting there for well over a year now and despite many promises, I simply cannot get into the KSIS process. But this time is going to be different. Now I have cleared the decks, strapped down the barrels, scraped the barnacles off the hull along with any and other sailing preparation metaphor you can be arsed to come up with.
I am ready to head out onto the high seas and not return until I have a cargo that is ready for the marketplace.
Now this first draft is as rough as a 80’s Saturday night down the Old Kent Road. But I like my MC, a deviant Detective Sergeant. ‘Like’ is not quite perhaps the right word. He serves a purpose with a suitably dark backstory offering me all sorts of opportunities to explore the various trials and tribulations that fascinate me about this London of mine enduring the slings and arrows of the 21st century. I can have him moved to any of the 32 boroughs on the merest of whims, compel him face up to all manner of dilemmas, both personal and professional, the two often intermingling. Even his musical whim, which I felt I had to include given the accepted norms of 21st century British crime writing, have intrigued me despite their contrived nature, proving the catalyst to a dramatic, and unexpected until almost the end, denouement that made me want to eat myself, such was the joy I felt when old Norman, who was nothing other than his usual charming and helpful self, presented it to me on a plate. I loved the way the plot evolved, the twists and the turns, the second murder turning up unexpectedly and proving the tipping point for the story to become that much darker. In short, I was bloody chuffed with myself when I wrote ‘The End’.
I believe this novel has potential. And I want to work on it, desperate to throw myself wholeheartedly into the process. To immerse myself in the intricacies, to churn the grey matter over as I read, edit, redraft, over and over again until I have completed it then turning to the next one. Then perhaps another. Because there is a series in this. I feel that in my bones that I not only want to write but feel I need to.
However Norman has a sudden change of heart. Refusing to cooperate. In full on mutiny. Standing there with arms crossed, cold eyes glaring, his ever present pipe nowhere to be seen. But I am not having it. I cast off anyway, vowing that I can do this on my own, that now is the time for the student to become the teacher.
And I make it out of harbour. With the tide against me, the winds threatening to drive me onto the rocks, the waves battering the hull from all directions but I still manage to battle my way through the first 7 chapters, every nautical footstep even more of an absolute slog, leaving me bewildered, exhausted and increasingly nauseous. I have to acknowledge that along with the dawning realisation that I cannot do this alone.
Perhaps this pissing contest needed to happen? Maybe I needed to go toe to toe with good old Norm? To stare him in the eye whilst screaming in a mix of rage and frustration about his staunch unwillingness to acquiesce to my demands? His refusal to obey my clear and concise commands. To stomp up and down, throwing my arms up in the air, screaming blue murder, using the choicest of language.
With the result being that I need to acknowledge who the real boss in all of this is? Of how I have forgotten my place in the galley, hands firmly on an oar? Foolishly imagining instead that I deserve a place on the bridge, unwilling to accept that I am poorly equipped to grip the Wheel?
They say that acceptance is the first step.
I waved the white flag. I did so with no graciousness and eyes wet with tears at my literary impotence, wanting to weep at Normans intransigence. And at my humiliation.
Hence on Wednesday, I sit down in my favourite local cafe, order a cup of frothy coffee, and begin to work on a short story set in my ‘Piranha Pandemic’ world.
963 words later,all done and dusted for the session. And the buzz back. That elusive tingle I crave. That sense, for a few minutes at least, that this is what I am meant to be indulging in. The flow. With Norman watching over me the entire time, clouds of fragrant smoke once again billowing from his pipe, rewarding my efforts with almost imperceptible constant nodding, his eyes back to their warm, understanding, self. My best interests at heart. Only wanting what is best for us both. Mine not to reason why.
Know your place Matty boy. Know your place.