When you’ve had a strange or interesting life, many people say ‘’Ooh! How funny, you must write a book!’’ After a few years of this, you start thinking , maybe I should write a book.
After I’d retired from my saucy lifestyle of 20 years brothel keeping, I had an identity crisis. I was really surprised how lost I felt without my Madam Becky persona, and getting involved in a book seemed like a good way to keep in touch with that side of my life.
Many years, and many adventures in the sex for sale business has resulted in squillions of funny stories, half of them are being forgotten as time slides by. I decided a book would be a smashing idea for sharing my memories, but I had no intention of writing it myself.
Although I’m an avid reader, I’ve not written anything since my years at school, and it’s always the police that write the content for my statements when I’ve been arrested for whatever transgression it may be, so I’m very out of practice, and not really up for the task.
It was easy to find a ghost writer; in fact several were keen to take on the Madam Becky project, the ups and downs of brothel keeping in Britain. I’m not a crude person, more maiden aunt than sex chats with sailors, so I was looking for an Ealing Comedy approach rather than saucy steaminess. Agents and writers formed a queue for the job, as the main stream profitable market was obvious to all. My various TV projects, resulting media coverage, and an avid interest in the sex industry means that a book of my memoirs, carefully written should be exceptable for the large outlets such as the big supermarkets, who now sell the majority of books in the UK.
I’d had a woeful, and failed attempt at having a book written previously. The ghost for that offering struggled to find ‘my voice’ and the whole thing was a wash out. This time I chose my ghost carefully, and we got to work.
6 months of work passed and it was time to sell to the publishers. At this point, my agent whom I was sharing with the ghost decided she’s rather not be involved in the prostitution genre. Fair enough, but a bit late notice.
A few more weeks of drama, bored with all the silliness, I signed with a new international literary and TV agency. They read my meagre blogs and my shopping list, and over a nice cup of tea they told me that they considered me perfectly capable of writing my own book. By now, I had wasted so much time and energy on 3 parties that I was open to the idea. Motivated by a smart office, and images of book signings and applause I headed off home from my meeting in London full of literary zestiness.
It was when I turned on my lap-top and sat staring at the screen I realised I had no idea what I was doing. I’m not a person who lives to write. I have no story burning inside me fighting to be told. I admire those people, like I admire those who find the strength to work with children, but that’s not me. I could stand up in front of a room of 1000’s and tell my story and funny jokes, but sitting alone typing it seems not only confusing but painfully dull.
My first instructions were to write an outline of the chapters. Ok. What does that look like then? I had no idea, but my helpful agent explained they wanted about 20,000 words, which would include 2 sample chapters, and a chapter outline of the entire book. You’re kidding? No, she wasn’t.
Ok. The book would be about 80,000 words, and they want it for the same deadline as the professional writers were panicking about. Outline and sample chapters by early September, completed manuscript by Jan. Edits until Feb then off to be printed, or whatever you call it. I have no idea, as I’m not yet at that stage! You’re kidding? No, they’re not.
How many words on a page? How many words in a chapter? How many chapters in a book? I had no idea. I’ve got a rough idea now, but I’m learning fast.
Chapter 1.... Where to start? I have no idea. This is not my idea of fun. I get a headache and go out.
Chapter 1.... No, still no idea, I’ll go to the gym for a bit.
Chapter 1... I’ll do the dishes and make a coffee and think about it.
Now, not only am I not a writer, but I’m fighting my personality. I’m consistently in-consistent. I’m a starter, an ideas person, even though I have no idea, not a day by day, bit by bit get it done kinda gal. When I’ve started something, if someone else can’t finish it then I walk away and do something else. It sounds fun, but you do end up wasting half of your life. Tortoise and the hare. You know.
I realised that I do most of my thinking in the bath, or walking my dogs. My dogs have short legs, and less motivation than me, so dog exercise is a leisurely business, conducive to thinking.
I started to write slowly. ‘’don’t re-read’’ friends would tell me. ‘’Just let it flow.
‘’Write in the past tense’’ the agent said. How do I do that? I know what the past tense is in theory, but I mix my tenses with my metaphors. Keeping it all past tense is impossible. I don’t get it at all.
I seem to write best in the mornings. I suffer hideously from migraines, and although still fairly young, and optimistically frisky have had several strokes, which make it difficult to sit at a desk as it sets my headaches off, so I have to lie down to type.
So, I lay in bed until lunch time with my laptop on my knees at a jaunty angle. Day after day. I feel like I should be ill or recovering from the plague. I never even lie in normally, so this is most peculiar. It’s not nice. I feel stale and stodgy, and guilty for lounging about doing nothing.
On one dog walk the penny drops that writers write. Yeah, I know, but up until then it felt wrong writing for hours. If I was going to write a book, I would need to sit still and write a book. Like doing a proper job. Blimey! What a revelation.
I then decide that if I work on the book for the morning, then get off my bed and go out for a bit. Walk the dogs etc I’d feel ok to do a bit more from 4 -6 pm. I feel like I’m getting somewhere. Hurrah!
I get grumpy if I’m interrupted by visiting family, and wave them away. I work frantically for 3 days and make myself ill. I then grind to a halt and doubt sets in. I sent my first few chapter outlines to the agent to review. If its rubbish I’d rather know now than in 2 months and hundreds of hours time. I hear nothing and do nothing. A week passes. I’m getting pissed off. No emails, no calls nothing.
My daughter checks the post box and brings in a huge rain soaked envelope from the literary agent. She has done it the old fashioned way, and written the corrections by hand and posted them. There are very few corrections. Just ‘please write in the past tense’. So I go back through and put ‘ed’ on the end of everything and get going again.
Today I have emailed 24,000 words of chapter outline to the agent. I’m stuck now with the sample chapters, and my bum has gone numb from sitting still. I’m looking into new ways of progressing. Maybe by dictating my stories into a machine. Typing makes me want to kill myself.
A dear friend who has a career coaching business has stepped forward to help keep me on the straight and narrow. I’ve decided to blog my journey for 2 reasons, firstly my blog is being neglected as I’ve only got a small brain, and no room in it for both book writing and blogging on other subjects, and secondly, I know lots of other people want to write books and don’t do it. Well, I’m useless, so if I can get it done anyone can! Let’s see what happens now!