Celtic Illumination, part 278, Got Some In.
I suppose most of you will now be thinking that I was completely off my rocker believing that I could become a writer. Well, you’ll have to wait and see what happens and then you can make a more informed decision. I was extremely excited, I was also secretly terrified, but there’s no need for anyone to know that. There’s no office you can report to where you sign up and become a writer, there are one or two recognised routes to becoming a writer, but the most common is that an individual one day will decide to become a writer. There’s plenty of books out there with tons of information, the only problem is ploughing your way through it and deciding which the best path to follow for you is.
Unfortunately there are a lot of con men out there too, offering courses or even selling books on how to become a writer. And then what is it that I would be writing? There was just so much to choose from, as in books, articles, plays short stories, poetry? The one thing I did know was that I would not try to tell anyone what to think, I didn’t know the answers to everything so why should I pretend to, I would become a story teller. The most important book for any writer, in the United Kingdom, I soon found out was the Writers and Artists Yearbook, often referred to as the writer’s bible. This book, published every January, gives the rates of pay for writers but perhaps more importantly it lists every publication in the United Kingdom from magazines to newspapers. It explains how submissions should be made and to whom and how much you will be paid.
I was starting to see that this word count was quite important, that all outlets demanded a certain amount of words. I was still struggling to bring my daily word count up; I couldn’t believe that writers produced seven hundred and fifty words per day, every day. Please don’t think that I was just sat sitting there scribbling away. I had completed a lot of reading and had decided that I would write a novel. Well; I thought I would like to attempt to write a novel. With me struggling to produce two hundred words every day I wondered just how long it would take to produce one hundred thousand words. There is no exact figure for a novel; Mills and Boon for example demand that each submission is fifty five thousand words exactly. I worked on the assumption that for me a standard novel would be about four hundred pages, which at an average of two hundred and fifty words, per printed page, would give me one hundred thousand words. (Just for your information, the total word count for this blog, since the beginning, has just passed through the three hundred and fifty thousand word mark.)
I kept the whole process very simple, twenty chapters at five thousand words each. I had meticulously planned out my novel and with about seventeen of the chapters planned, I began to write. I was writing a thriller called ‘Got some in,’ a play on an old television programme title about the RAF called ‘Get Some In.’ Got Some In, suggesting that the characters had served some time in the forces, which mine had, except they were having difficulty finding work in Civvie Street. I wonder what made me think of that? They got together and began to rob banks in the Republic of Ireland but left clues that would point the finger of blame at the IRA. I couldn’t believe the amount of work that I had to put in to the project. It’s bad enough planning out a novel, but now I had to plan a couple of robberies in Ireland. I had to research banks and weapons and vehicles, I had to check and coordinate ferry sailing times,
In fact I do remember nipping home for a quick weekend and approaching the purser mid voyage. I explained that I was a writer and needed to complete a little bit of research on his vessel. I was asked to remain where I was while he went off and got the chief engineer, who then gave me a guided tour of the ship. I was interested in the vehicle bay and the security around it during sailing. I would have thought that that type of information would be closely guarded but this fellow was more than willing to answer every question I asked. The only person who ever raised an eyebrow was my dentist who began to hesitate with his answers to my questions when I was quizzing him on his stock of Nitrous Oxide.
I really was so happy with my choice of career. I know that I was sitting at a desk with a wall before me but it was proving to be one of the most exciting jobs I had ever encountered. Every day I would be researching something new, from police procedure to pig husbandry, forgive me, no association was intended there. The Writers and Artists Yearbook also gives a list of every publisher in the United Kingdom, so that when you had finished your novel you knew who to send to it to. Even that had rules from the weight of the paper used, to double line spacing and one inch margins. There were also lots of remarks and information about the rejection process and how you should approach it. As if someone could even consider rejecting something of mine.
The Writers and Artists yearbook also gave a list of literary agents and these were supposed to be harder to get than publishers. But I could see that I would need my very own mister ten percent. It would allow me to send my work to my agent and let him do all the negotiating. I began to write to agents, but as with most things in the writing world there were rules. You were only allowed to write to one agent or one publisher at a time. This, it was claimed, was in case two publishers or agents wanted to accept your project and this would create an embarrassment. Of course at the beginning I believed stuff like this, I wasn’t to know that the writing and publishing world was populated by some of the biggest crooks and vagabonds in the world, at least I would be in good company.
Of course when I had sat down at my dining room table with my blank sheet of paper and my fountain pen I just didn’t work out what it was that I should do for the remainder of my life, I also noted down what was important to me and I had placed at the top of that column my children. The one guaranteed method of guaranteeing success for your children it is to send them to a British public school. I could see that the British system was corrupt and that the old school tie most certainly did work but I couldn’t afford the seventeen thousand pounds per term to guarantee each of my children a successful future. I liked the attitude and focus of places like Gordonstoun School where my old mate Prince Charles had been educated.
As I was earning little or no money I desperately needed to get my children out and about, rather than let them morph into the rabble that skulked around most street corners. I had noticed that there was an air cadet squadron in the town. The air training corps is a voluntary youth movement which is sponsored by the air force. It used to be used as a recruiting organisation for the air force but no longer has that as its main focus. What they did offer was outdoor activities such as hill walking and rock climbing. There were opportunities for gliding and even flying so one evening I marched my two boys, Gerard and James, over to the local air training corps squadron. It was strange walking in to a room full of people in uniform. The guy in charge spoke to me and welcomed me.
I was disappointed when he said that the age for entry was thirteen as one of mine was eight and the other ten. Far too young to join in with the activities. I was about to leave when he suggested that I sit down and have a cup of tea. I did and began to chat with him. His name was Andy Richards, a lovely fellow despite the fact that he had been a policeman in the air force and was now a civilian police officer in Warrington. There were quite a lot of people there and the whole place did seem to be quite well organised. I finished my tea, shook hands with Andy and thanked him for seeing me. One of the other people in the room asked if I had been in the air force and I smiled as I suppose I had, but probably not in the way they were thinking. “What did you do in the air force?” they asked. I didn’t have the time to sit down and tell them of the many and varied careers I had had in the air force so I just mentioned the one I was proudest of. “Mountain Rescue,” I said. “I served on the Desert and Mountain Rescue Teams.” I promise you, jaws were dropping and Andy asked me to step in to his tiny little office. I did and he closed the door over. “Listen,” he said. “If you fancy coming here as an instructor you can bring your children along and have them participate in most of the activities.” I shook hands with Andy and agreed to become an instructor. I was happy as I walked away from the squadron building. I was glad that I had found an outlet for my children, they were ready for it, I only hoped the air cadets were ready for me.