Updated: Nov 9, 2020
At long last, I have finished writing my first novel.
Of course, there’ll be a few last-minute changes before it goes to press but after writing at least five drafts, over two years, I can confidently now say ‘it’s done’. There is always more you could write. There are always parts you can change or remove. But knowing when to stop is almost as important as knowing how to start.
Although it’s my first novel, I’ve written and recorded many songs over the years and the same principle can be as easily applied to writing songs as it does to writing novels. With modern recording technology available at home, recording songs with endless tracks is possible and very tempting. An extra keyboard track, or guitar part or multiple backing vocal can sometimes feel necessary but quite often you have done more than enough by that stage.
And the same with writing a novel. When it feels like it’s done, then it’s done. There is also the danger that you start getting bored of the story by that stage. And that’s not a good thing - especially when you now have to start passionately selling it to potential readers. You’ve got to somehow capture that same enthusiasm you had at the start, just as the end is in sight.
I never intended to write a novel.
Even when I signed up for a writing class a couple of years ago, it wasn’t with the goal of writing a book – unlike many of the other course attendees. I had just pulled together a dozen songs for my latest album and I knew I needed a creative boost to help write the next batch of songs. Indeed, the description of the course was to help find inspiration for your writing project. It just so happened the writing project I had in mind was an album.
One of the writing exercises the tutor set us was to write about a concert we had experienced. It was a 5- minute speed exercise to write whatever came to mind. It was probably when the seed for my novel was sown. As well as writing music, I found writing about music to be just as rewarding. And after years of writing songs, I felt I knew at least a bit about the subject.
And then something strange happened.
On a shopping trip one day, I popped into a music shop and, on impulse, bought some speakers. Not very interesting, you might say. However, there was something recognisable about the bloke who served me. But I just couldn’t place him. When I got home, I, excitedly, unpacked the speakers. Annoyingly, I discovered that whilst one speaker had a standard plug attached, the other had a European style pinned plug. Thinking it was some kind symbolism relating to the crazy issue of Brexit, I fetched the receipt I was given at the shop. Looking for the number to call the shop to ask what I should do, there was an extra bit of detail to say who had served me that day. And then, I knew who it was I thought I recognised earlier in the shop.
It was none other than the lead singer of a band that that I had loved in the 1990s. The singer’s vocals and lyrics helped produce a spiky, melodic and strutting collection of songs that complimented the Britpop era perfectly. And so, after sorting out the speakers, I jumped online to remind myself of some of their best tracks – some of which I hadn’t heard in years.
It was to this soundtrack that an idea started to form. It made me wonder what happens to musicians when they drop out of the limelight. And that’s where my imagination went into overdrive and a story quickly formed about a musician who was famous in a particular era and now works in a music shop. And so, the character of Richie Carlisle was born.
You never know when inspiration and ideas can hit. You just need to be ready and willing to capture it.