The Trials and Tribulations of a First Time Author

How you Write

The beginning of 2011 was when I finally started my journey as an author. Little did I know then what lay ahead.  My first attempt at an introduction was so contrived that it rapidly made it into the recycle bin. After that I spent many an hour looking at my computer screen wondering how I would start this story.  I ended up resorting to pen and paper as it somehow felt less threatening.

When I first started writing, one of my biggest fears was that I would end up with a book that was too short.  I couldn’t imagine writing more than about a hundred and fifty pages and in those early days my chapter lengths looked like they were going to prove me right.  They were averaging about eight pages each and according to my plan I was going to have about nineteen chapters.  A question I often asked myself was how long does a story have to be to constitute a novel … and how could I manage to make mine that long?

In the event I needn’t have worried; in fact one of my major concerns at the moment is that it will be too long!  I have now written over four hundred pages (thirty-eight chapters, most of which are over eight pages long) and I am only just approaching the real crux of the story.  I can easily see it lasting another two hundred pages and so there is likely to be a lot of editing later down the line!

So, does that mean writing a plan was a waste of time?  The short answer is no.  Some of the details have evolved along the way, but essentially I am still following the information I laid down in 2010.  What has changed is the amount of detail in each chapter.  The book spans life in Victorian England from 1846 to 1890, and where I once (naively) thought a single chapter may cover five to ten years, it soon became apparent that this was unrealistic and that some chapters would only cover a few months, a few days or even a few hours, depending on the event.

Once I realised that the length of the book would not be an issue (in so far as it wouldn’t be too short), I decided to turn it into a trilogy, reflecting the prominence of the central characters at each stage of the saga.  What I hadn’t anticipated, however, was how difficult it would be to move from Book 1 to Book 2.  The change meant I had to become acquainted with a new leading family and start to write from their perspective rather than from the perspective of the characters I had become so familiar with.  This caused quite a hiatus in my writing and I continued to work on Book 1, long after it should have been considered ‘finished’ as a first draft.  Eventually, with a lot of effort I did move on, and although I am keen to get to the end of Part 2, there is always the worry that the switch to Part 3 may not be as easy as I am hoping.

So, three years on, do I regret my decision?  Absolutely not.  Because of all the time and effort I have put into it, I am now determined that it will be published. Beyond that, however, it has opened up so much relating to my family history. It has forced me to understand the lives of my ancestors to a level of detail I would never have explored otherwise.  I have also learned a lot about Victorian England. On almost on every page I have had to research some background information to ensure I didn’t make mistakes in terms of what life was like at the time.

Writing my book really is a labour of love, done most evenings once the day’s work is finished and sometimes well into the night.  My main hope now is that I am doing the story justice.


About Val McBeath

Born and raised in Liverpool (UK), I live in Cheshire with husband, youngest daughter, and cat. In addition to family history, interests include rock music and Liverpool Football Club. Prior to writing, I trained as a scientist and worked in the pharmaceutical industry for many years. In 2012, I set up my own consultancy business and now split my time between business and writing.
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