Written by Michael Whitworth
Two years ago, I nearly ran over an old man in my car. He had stepped into the road, and I was forced to break sharply. As he sauntered off as though nothing had happened, I was left feeling what can only be described as angry. But then I thought to myself that I was wrong to feel that way: I was judging him on how he was now, when he may well have done more in his lifetime than I could possibly imagine.
The Theme Of The Camel And The Butterfly
I was reminded of a time when I was a child: my friends and I knew an elderly man who ran a small hardware shop. The shop was very run down with a corrugated iron roof and dirty windows. To us, he was just a very old man who sold nails and screws, and we always thought of him as quite odd.
Years later, when he died, my father told me that the old man had been a scientist in his youth and had worked on the development of the bouncing bomb during World War II. He had a rich life history, and all that I had seen was the last part. I had judged him unfairly based upon that.
These two people served as the inspiration for my book, The Camel and The Butterfly, and I had a picture of them in my mind whenever I was describing the main character, Thomas Mirren. Other writers may differ, but I find it useful to have a real person, a real image, on which to base my characters. I started writing my story around the time of the Remembrance Day services and my local town had a large number of ex-servicemen and women selling poppies. They are a group I admire greatly, and so I decided to use them as a focus for my narrative. Again, it provided me with a clear picture of the people I was writing about.
Starting To Write
So now that I had clarity regarding who I was writing about, as well as the general theme—how we can unfairly judge people based upon limited knowledge—the next step was the actual mechanics of writing the story.
Motivation, as in many walks of life, can be a limiting factor when writing a novel. At the outset, the sheer scope can be daunting, and so we search out distractions. To counter this, I like to give myself a target each day as to how much I would like to write, be it an amount of time or a number of words. I don’t get too hung up on this, but it is a useful way to ensure I at least complete something each day. There may be days when I have other things to do, or I don’t feel like writing at all, and that’s fine too. In writing, there are no deadlines, except those we impose on ourselves.
Location is important. I thrive on consistency, and as a result, I write in the same place every time. For me, it’s the kitchen table—close enough to the kettle, but far enough from other distractions. It’s important to keep hydrated! A familiar location feels comfortable, and that is important when doing many things, not only writing.
Finding My Writing Style
As for the process of actually getting words on paper (or Microsoft Word document, in my case), the most important thing is to get started. Nothing gets finished if it isn’t first started. Even a few words is fine. It’s the act of actually starting on a story which counts, overcoming the first hurdle. After that, I have changed my approach several times over the last couple of years. At first, I would write a couple of thousand words, then I would go over them, tweaking and editing, and then I would reread and tweak them again. As a result, things went incredibly slowly, and that was demotivational.
Now, I just write: I get the story down and do the tweaking later. It’s a first draft after all. The advantage of this method is that the story develops quickly, and that is an inspiration to keep going.
Some people like to have the plot fully set out from the start, a clear framework upon which the story develops. I am the complete opposite: I have an idea of what I want to say and where the story needs to go, but apart from that I tend to make it up as I go. This feels more spontaneous to me, and many of my favourite parts of a story were idea that came up as I was writing. Some mixture of both methods would probably work well for most writers.
Finishing The Camel And The Butterfly
And then, the story is finished. Well, the first draft at least. The next part I find a bit dull—rereading and rewriting, tweaking sentences and correcting punctuation. But it’s still important; we want the next reader, whether publisher or friend, to enjoy a polished story, as close to the finished article as you can get it. First impressions are important.
If you’ve decided to send your manuscript to a publisher, the next thing is to research as many as you can. There are lots of great independent publishers out there who are willing to take a chance on new writers, when perhaps the larger, more established publishing houses may not. Not every publisher will look at every genre, so make sure to visit their submissions pages. It’s important to find the best fit for your work. And make sure to give them what they are asking for—a one- or two-page synopsis is commonly required, as well as a full or partial manuscript.
And then you wait.
Finding A Publisher
If I had to sum up my writing experiences from idea to publication, I would go in this order: trepidation, excitement, hope, validation. It’s normal to be somewhat nervous when embarking on such a personal and consuming project as writing a novel. But once you get started it’s a wonderful and exciting journey. At the end, you have created something which would not exist without your efforts. For me, the hope phase was that if just one person liked what I wrote, then I would be happy.
When my publisher, Cahill Davis Publishing, came back to me and said they wished to publish The Camel and the Butterfly, I was delighted. There was the validation. Someone had enjoyed my story and believed in my writing. And that’s a pretty good feeling.
More From Michael Whitworth:
Book: The Camel and the Butterfly https://books2read.com/tcatb
Publisher: Cahill Davis Publishing
Release date: 8 November 2021
Publisher’s Twitter: www.twitter.com/publishingdavis
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