Blog on the Bus pt 51 (so what have we learned?)

As we approach the anniversary of the ‘Blog on the Bus’ and as I have now commenced my sixth (yes SIXTH!) novel, I thought it best to reflect on what I have learnt from this whole writing experience (you better pour the milk on your corn flakes, we may be some time).

1. It’s not easy.
Whenever I tell someone new that I am a writer (for that is what I’m pretending to be), the reaction is always the same:

Wow, that’s amazing! I wish I was smart enough to write a book. I’ve always wanted to write but I just never have the time.

I usually take the modest-response-option and play down how difficult it is and respond with:

It’s easier than you think, you just need to give it a go.

I say this knowing that none of the people I suggest this to will actually do it, so I don’t feel bad about misleading them. The truth is that writing words on a page IS easy, it’s just the rest of the writing experience that requires effort and patience.

For me, writing a structured plot so that I know at least five things that need to happen in each chapter and how they string together, is fundamental. I spend weeks plotting a project. In the early stages all the plotting takes place in my head (usually before I have finished my previous project) and then I start to write it down. The written plot gets revised several times before I start writing.

At this juncture I should point out that I have a full time job, and I am not lucky enough to have the freedom to type all day every day. So, I have to be very disciplined about making the time to write. I do this by going into the office early so that I can type for nearly an hour before my shift starts. Most of the time I will also take a sandwich to work for lunch so that I can have an uninterrupted hour of typing in the middle of the day. And that is it! The rest of my free time is spent with my wonderful family.

Maintaining this level of discipline allows me to complete a first draft of a project within 3 months.

As I said, it’s not easy but if you can be patient and disciplined, it’s achievable.

2. Editing and proof-reading is worth its weight in gold.
When I completed Integration I asked 1 person to proof read it after my attempt. This resulted in an inferior version of my first idea being published (though a revised version is now available). Whilst it received some positive feedback, it received A LOT of criticism for poor spelling and grammar (although I’ve always prided myself on my skill in this area).

What I’ve learned is that the more eyes that look at a project, and provide feedback, the better. I now use 4 people as well as my own feeble attempts to proof-read and edit and so far, I’m pleased that Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line have been so well received.

3. Building an audience
This is the lesson I’m still learning. Like any author with delusions of grandeur, one day I’d like to see my work in the hands and homes of every living creature, with the sound of checkout chimes ringing in my ears. Until that day (or hell freezes over, whichever comes quicker!), I need to make efforts to share the fruits of my labours with anyone who will listen. I will persevere with this and hope that those who have enjoyed my stories will tell their friends to give them a go.

So what have I learned so far?

> Writing is not a hobby, it’s a way of life.
> It won’t make you rich over night.
> It takes patience and discipline.
> Despite what I have said, it’s still one of the most enjoyable journeys I’ve been on!

If you are working on a project at the moment or if you’re considering starting one: just do it!

Until the next time, happy reading.

Stephen

Stephen is the author of Integration, Remorse, Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line. Find his work here or via stephenedger.com

Blog on the Bus pt 50 (nature vs nurture)

Good morning bus dwellers and welcome to this anniversarial edition of my blog. It is the 50th edition (*champagne corks pop in the background) of this bus blog and I thought a moment of reflection (mirrors on stand by) was required…

…okay, moment over. Phew!

Now, onto the real business.

What is the difference between a serial killer and a good thriller writer?

The writer tells their dark thoughts and the killer lives their dark thoughts.

So this throws up the argument of nurture versus nature. To help me get into the mind of some of the darker characters in my tales, I watch a lot (and I mean a lot) of documentaries on crime and killers. I watch and observe the feelings, thoughts and motives of these killers as well as the intricate nature of their upbringings.

It makes me wonder: how different might I have been with a different upbringing?

I have demonstrated I’m capable of imagining and describing despicable crimes but I clearly understand the difference between right and wrong. What if I hadn’t grown up in a warm and supportive environment? What if I had been the victim of abusive or absent parents, would I now be one of the people I witness in documentaries?

Who knows?!?

The reason for posing these questions (as much as they will trouble those closest to me) is: what is the difference between a serial killer and a good thriller writer? Is there really that much difference?

Of course there is!

But had the Myra Hindleys and Ian Bradys of the world had a more caring upbringing would they have still committed the crimes they had? Or are such people born to kill?

In honesty, I do enjoy creating the psychotic alter egos in my mind, knowing that they can do whatever they like, above the law. I hope that my followers enjoy reading them.

Too somber for your Weetabix, right? Well, I offer my sincerest apologies.

The new project has 23k miles on the clock so far and I’m pretty pleased with how it’s coming together. 40k is the first milestone that tells me if the project has legs or if I should start again. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that it will go the distance.

Until the next time, happy reading!

Stephen

Stephen is the author of Integration, Remorse, Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line. Find his work here or via stephenedger.com)

Blog on the Bus pt 49 (it’s not all about the money is it?)

Morning bus bloggers. Another week has passed and, of course, that means I am a week closer to taking over the world with my writing excellence (well, you’ve got to dream, right?)

So, a certain Ms Rowling has been making the headlines again, although probably for the wrong reasons. She has been accused of trying to pull the wool over the eyes of her readers (as if an author would make stuff up!) by writing under a pseudonym (someone fetch a noose and I’ll meet you at the gallows).

What’s the crime right? Plenty of authors write under a presumed name so that their authorial voice can sound different to their usual one. It’s been happening since the start of time (did you really think the Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? In fact, they were called John, Paul, George and Ringo but had to change their names for legal reasons).

What has caused such uproar is that sales of the new work, under the different name, were poor. No surprises there either: it’s not easy trying to make a name for yourself (have you heard of me?) A little bird (possibly a sparrow) has let the cat (a ginger tom) out of the bag and now the world knows (what do you mean you hadn’t heard this story?) that the new author is in fact J K (*audibly gasps). What amazes me is where the idea came from (it’s not like Voldermort was ever known by another name…oh wait).

Suddenly sales of the new work have increased and some cynics are questioning was this just a ploy all along? Well it probably was but who are we to judge her for needing more £millions, it’s not like that Harry Potter book will ever take off is it?

As a writer (for that is what I pretend to be), writing is not something I want to do, it’s something I have to do!

I don’t choose to wake up in the morning and begin typing. I don’t choose to remain typing for 1-2 hours, pouring my heart and soul into a project. I don’t choose to edit that work until I’m satisfied with the finished article. A priest doesn’t choose to preach the Word of God, it’s a calling. In the same way, every writer is called to put pen to paper.

Ms Rowling will be judged, for everything she now produces, against the success of that young bespectacled wizard. So who wouldn’t want to hide behind the mask of a pseudonym to allow their calling to proceed. After all, when Jesus rose from the dead he didn’t phone the local press office, he revealed himself to a handful of close friends.

Let’s not judge J K for wanting to write something different and for trying to make some easy cash on the side. We’d all do it given half a chance!

The bus driver is nodding at me in the mirror so he is either in total agreement or it’s time for me to get off. Either way, I’ll let you get back to your Corn Flakes or Shreddies.

Until the next time, happy reading!

Stephen

Stephen is the author of Integration, Remorse, Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line. Find his work here or via stephenedger.com)

Blog on the Bus pt 48 (sun, sun, sun)

Good morning all. I hope you are making the most of the glorious sunshine and the mini heat wave we appear to be experiencing. I appreciate it’s getting to the point where we want to start complaining that “it’s too hot” and that we “wish it was cold again” but resist that urge and declare from the hills “it’s pretty good for England!

Let’s not forget that usually at this time of year it’s pissing down with rain (think of all those rainy Wimbledon interruptions down the years). But for once we are getting the summer of sun we deserve.

Don’t get me wrong, I felt rotten yesterday, with a persistent headache that just wouldn’t dissipate, having spent the entire day in the sun on Sunday. But what’s a bit of sun stroke right? I’m sure things will be better today!

As a writer who is required to spend at least 2 hours per day in doors, hunched over a computer (typing you understand, not surfing), it is hard to maintain discipline. It would be far easier to bin it off and go and sunbathe but then I wouldn’t get anything written! If anything, this glorious weather is a good test of my writing discipline: if I can continue to type with this kind of distraction, I can beat anything!

Incidentally, for those with an interest (I’m sure you all are), the new writing project is up and running with 10k words on the digital page. How many of them are any good or in the right order is anyone’s guess, but they’re there.

I’ll go now and let you get on with topping up your tan. Alas, for me, my pasty white skin either remains milky or turns a bright shade of crimson, so it’s probably safer to bash away at those keys.

Until the next time, happy reading!

Stephen is the author of Integration, Remorse, Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line. Find his work here or via stephenedger.com)

Blog on the Bus pt 47 (everything happens for a reason)

Morning bus bloggers. The nature of today’s entry, in the cataclysmic calendar of my life, is an old family motto (well, my dad says it a lot!)

Everything happens for a reason…

Okay so it’s not necessarily the most insightful expression that you’ll read this lovely Southampton morning (the sun is out and the birds are singing), it is something that I truly believe in however.

Why? I hear you ask.

I have have many experiences where things have happened and it has seemed like my life has slotted into pace like a jigsaw puzzle.

Take my wife for example (no, please, take her 😊). I met her while at work one evening. At the time, I was at University and working part time in Sainsbury’s. If I hadn’t picked to study in Southampton and I hadn’t transferred from Sainsbury’s in London to earn some extra cash while studying, I probably wouldn’t have been stood by the grapes where we met. If she hadn’t recently broken up with her boyfriend, sworn herself off boys for life and subsequently been dragged to the supermarket by her despairing mother, she wouldn’t have been stood there either.

Coincidence?

I don’t think so. She is my soul mate!

Similarly, if my rental property hadn’t been burgled while we were on holiday in Spain in 2010, I would never have written Integration; subsequently I wouldn’t have written Remorse, Redemption, Snatched or Shadow Line.

Everything happens for a reason.

I’ve been hunting for a new job for the last 7 months without success and yet this week I’ve been offered 2 new roles (like buses, these job offers!). I have decided which one I want more, and I’m not going to lie, the proposed salary went a long way to helping me reach the decision. This new improvement in status is going to allow my soul mate and I to move to our dream house (good size and great location) and hopefully add to our clan in the not too distant future. Again, I can see the jigsaw pieces slotting seamlessly together.

In the past 7 months I have been unsuccessful in 5 interviews but I can now appreciate why and in hindsight (looking at what has happened with those roles) I was blessed not to get them. I’ll be honest again and say I was starting to question my dad’s saying (7 months is a hard slog after all!) but I can see the truth in it again.

Everything happens for a reason.

Say it aloud now. Share it with the other people on the bus, train or in the car with you.

Everything happens for a reason.

We don’t know what the reason is at first and it can take time to materialise, but there is a great plan out there for each of us. So fasten up your seat-belts, sit back and enjoy the ride!

Until the next time, happy reading,

Stephen

Stephen is the author of Integration, Remorse, Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line. Find his work here or via stephenedger.com)