Sunday, 18 November 2012


I first started writing back in 2000, without any clue why I had the sudden urge to put words onto a screen. For as long as I can remember, I've been a fan of action films. My first was Die Hard. I was 12 years old when my brother brought it home to watch over his weekend break from university. My parents were invited to a wedding on the Saturday, and so big brother had babysitting duty. Myself and my sister (mercy on her soul) were a little bit rowdy, so he decided he would try to scare the wits out of us with the block-busting Die Hard, starring Bruce Willis as the quick-witted John McClane. It had the opposite effect, unfortunately, though it did keep me quiet, owing to how riveted I was on the story. I guess I have my brother to thank for setting me on the path to writing, for I'm not sure whether, later in life, the film would have impressed upon me as much as it did on a 12-year-old boy.

I remember the suspense, the sense of fear, and being so engrossed in the story that I can today still recall almost every line of dialogue spoken. So it made sense that my first piece of writing began as a film script. Back then, it was my dream to make a blockbuster. I was, and still am, a film buff. At that time in my life, I wasn't a huge reader. Truth be told, I hadn't read much since finishing high school. So you can imagine my surprise when my film script metamorphosed into a novel manuscript. Granted, I had learned that making a film cost serious money, and I would need actors, producers, cameramen, etcetera. I just didn't have the passion to make any of that come to be, but I had a very active imagination and needed to find some way of expressing it. I finished the first draft of The Job in December 2002, a story about two ordinary men caught in the whirlwind of a terrorist attack and forced to become essentially heroes. I knew the writing wasn't great. The ideas were all there, but the nuts and bolts needed to be honed. So I tossed the manuscript in my drawer and started work on the sequel. The Hunter's Prey came to be 16 months later in mid-2004. Again, the ideas were all there but the execution lacked. Number two was also consigned to my drawer, and I started work on the third -- another direct sequel. Chasing Shadows remains my favourite piece of work to date. Technically there will be better pieces of writing (I hope!) in the future, but my third novel was an absolute blast to write. I finished it in January of 2005, and I could see clearly the difference between it and the first novel. The writing was beginning to take shape. I thought nothing of it and quickly got to work on #4 after a couple months' break. Acts of Treason, to date my biggest novel, stalled at 311,000 words. It remains in the Novels (In Progress) folder on my computer. Close friends and those in the know about my writing often speculate that maybe it was getting too big and I couldn't tie all the storylines together. Or maybe I grew bored with the telling of it. If only either of those were true.

In the early part of 2006 I had an extreme crisis of confidence regarding my writing. To that point I never had the Internet, with the exception of a pricey dial-up modem. I was living in the countryside, miles from the nearest town, and broadband had just arrived in the area. Within a few weeks of setting it up, I joined a now-defunct writers' site and begin perusing the posts. Things like 'show, don't tell', 'passive writing', and 'avoiding adverbs' reared their heads on more than a few occasions. I assumed these were actual rules (I've never read a how-to writing book in my life) and took them to heart. Something happened, though. Where once I had enjoyed every minute of writing, from thereon it turned into a chore. I was fretting about my writing to the point where every sentence, every word, was scrutinised beyond that which it should have been. As a result I wrote very little in three years. I wouldn't presume to blame it on writer's block, for my ailments were of my own making. It was only when I took a step back and realised that I was writing for someone else's vision of good writing, and not writing for myself, that I solved the problem. After that, I got back on the wagon and churned out my fifth, sixth, and seventh novels, after which I felt my writing had reached publishable standard, and I duly returned to the first story I ever wrote and, using it as a template, rewrote it from scratch.

When we're afraid, we don't make sound judgements. I let fear rule my writing, and as a result I spent three years trying and failing to write anything near the standard with which I had written beforehand. Now I love writing again, and that's because I learned that I would rather write for myself and never be published, than live in fear and create 'sellable' fiction that borders on cookie cutter.


  1. There you go...the first "rule" of writing: write the stories you always wanted to read. All the rest of those experiences honed your considerable skills. Today's great stories are the culmination of all those prior works.

    Best wishes in your ongoing story-crafting...Dean

  2. Well it's only natural that movies influence our Outlook. Now watch more movies than read books