20 AUGUST 2012
“If you have tears, prepare to shed them now ...”
So said Mark Antony over the body of Julius Caesar (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act iii, Scene ii. Or was it Act ii, Scene iii? Well, whatever ...) So say I over the twitching corpse of my intended debut novel Birds Of The Nile. Disaster has struck and although not quite dead, it has been dealt a mighty blow.
It’s now some three and a half years since my wife and I visited Egypt and two years since I started writing the book. That’s a long time in anyone’s life, particularly mine. It began as another of the short novellas I had been writing – I have three in print and this was to be the fourth. We’d been down The Nile on a cruise, I’d taken my bird-watching gear with me and like so many of the holidays l’ve been on, it developed into a plot. As glad as I was of this at the time (good plots are hard to come by) I stored the idea away and did nothing with it for a while.
After eighteen months of it languishing in the pending drawer, I fetched it out and got a first draft down on paper (yes, paper, real paper and written with a pencil – I’m a bit old-fashioned in that respect). Then something serendipitous happened – Egypt erupted in a revolution that was front page news and Birds Of The Nile became a top priority. My wife (bless her) suggested I ‘big it up’ and what started out as a short novella blossomed into a full-length novel.
Then I got lucky – or so I thought. At Winchester Writers Conference 2011, I met an agent who liked the idea enough to want to see the finished article. With his encouragement it took me a further six months to complete the job and by January this year I had a viable piece of work to show him. He ‘loved’ it, and offered me an agency contract to market it. Suddenly, after seven years of slaving over a hot pencil, I had what so many of us wannabe writers want above all things – an agent, professional representation, nirvana! I signed up and we started redrafting.
After another six weeks work we had what he wanted and he began to send out to prospective publishers. I registered for Winchester again this year, confident that by the time I got there, I would have a book deal under my belt. Then, in the week before I was due to go, I got an email – he was leaving the industry and I was released from my contract. In the space of a few short words I went from hero to zero and my publishing balloon was well and truly burst.
So where does this leave me now? Un-agented, certainly and in the publishing game, I have climbed a ladder but fallen down a snake. The good news (if there is any) is that I do have a better book as a result of it all and the confidence to know I can write a decent novel.
As for tears, despite Mark Antony’s ‘praise’, Julius Caesar never rose from the dead. Let’s hope Birds Of The Nile makes a better recovery.