George Orwell wrote a short article in 1946, entitled, ‘Why I Write’. Apt to mention that, since he’s one of my reasons. Men of vision, like Orwell, HG Wells, Arthur C Clarke, who could seemingly predict the future and turn it into a gripping story inspired me from an early age. At the time, I didn’t even realise or think it odd that all those writers were male. I’m glad my daughter is growing up with so many women to inspire her.
The journey from there, to here – with my debut novel Blue Gold out this month – has been rather circuitous. Many people, including my family, were surprised to learn that there was a destination at all! But I’ve always enjoyed writing. Working as an economist in the city, I liked the challenge of making some analytical report clear, succinct and interesting just as much as I liked the analysis itself. When I got bored at the Bank of England, I contemplated a role in financial journalism. But then an offer that was too good to refuse came along and the shift towards more direct involvement in writing was postponed for another decade.
After my daughter was born, we re-discovered the joys of reading out loud to her. When she was old enough, she asked me to make up stories at bedtime. If that was good enough for Tolkien, it was certainly a good enough excuse for me to start writing fiction. Around the same time, I started to research the issue of water shortages more carefully. Two images got stuck in my head and I knew that I had the start and end of a novel.
What I didn’t realise was quite how much hard work and commitment it took to turn an idea into a 90,000-word story. Especially while holding down a full-time job. Coming home in the evenings, tired and surrounded by distractions, it can be very difficult to keep going. I did a good chunk of the first draft on the train during my commute.
And then I discovered that it’s even harder to write well. A good plot isn’t enough. On the Faber Academy How To Write A Novel course we all had to submit our work-in-progress to peer review. That can be a bruising experience, especially when you are making so many rookie errors like I was.
But none of this has put me off. I love trying to create something polished, something that will grip the reader’s attention. I don’t mind the editing process. Or the knowledge that I’ll have to start again from scratch for the next book. I’m already on draft three of the sequel to Blue Gold. (It’s called Rose Gold and should be available in May 2018). And I’ve even started to plot out the final instalment, White Gold.
I woke up at 3am just before Easter. I should have been thinking about the launch campaign for Blue Gold, or how to solve some of the sticking points in the current draft of Rose Gold. Instead I had the opening paragraph of a completely new story and a new voice inside my head. I didn’t ask it to be there. But I had to get up and put pen to paper (or at least put fingers on a keyboard) while it was fresh in my mind.
That’s why I write. Because my mind conjures up people that want to live and places that ought to be seen. The best way I can serve their needs is if I put them into a book and set it loosed upon the world. Whether the world is interested in me and my imagination, we’ll just have to wait and see…
This blog originally appeared on Linda Hill’s Book Bag blog, available here.