I was tidying my office the other day and found an old diary entry from 15 Jan 1984 that read, "This afternoon I started writing..." I must be one of the world's worst procrastinators because it took nearly 30 years to turn the dream into a reality. After my early attempts, I treated writing as a craft that had to be learned and attended all sorts of workshops and residential courses in the ensuing years.
Before embarking on a novel, for some reason, I needed to prove to myself that I was capable of writing to a 'publishable' standard. So I tried my hand at short stories and had loads of rejections before, finally, getting a twist-end story accepted by the national UK magazine, Best, who printed 'Sunday Love Songs' in their Autumn Special of 1999. It was great being in the Autumn Special because, unlike the weekly edition, it was on the shelves of every newsagent and supermarket in the land for a whole season! I thought I'd arrived but was soon brought back down to earth when my next few follow-up submissions were all rejected.
Well, I may be a procrastinator but I'm also tenacious and persistent! I convinced myself that if it happened once it could happen again - and it did. A couple of years later Best accepted another and then another and, suddenly, I was invited to by-pass the 'slush pile' and submit my stories directly to the editor via email. I'm eternally grateful to the then editor, Pat Richardson, who is now retired, for her faith in my work. I went on to have several short stories published in other nationals and small press 'literary' magazines as well as winning some competition prizes. So I told myself it was the right time to start the novel.
My First Novel
It took me 3 years to write my first novel. It was meant to be a thriller about smuggling and murder in Pembrokeshire (a county I love) and there was a bit of love interest too - just the sort of thing I enjoyed reading. I showed it to a few trusted friends and their feedback was that it was somewhere between a thriller, a romance and a travel guide but sadly didn't quite meet the full requirements of any of those genres. They said some kind things but all I heard was the criticism - and it hurt! But after retreating into my cave to lick my wounds I could see why they were right. I couldn't face rewriting it all over again and so I put it in my bottom drawer and started another novel ...but after a few chapters I got bored and figured the reader would be too.
So I took a break from writing and concentrated on my career.
It wasn't until ill health forced me to take time off work that I stumbled across National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It sounded like a bit of a gimmick but being thoroughly bored with daytime TV by then I decided to take the challenge. The aim was to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. Half way through that month, I was well enough to return to work but I ploughed on in my lunch hours because, as I said above, once I do eventually start something, I'm very determined. I hit the word count target but the novel still wasn't finished.
It didn't matter: I was back in the writing habit and thoroughly enjoying it. A couple of months later, the first draft of The Accidental Courier was finished. It took another 18 months of polishing, editing and rewriting before, finally, I felt confident enough to self-publish last October. Unlike my first attempt at a novel, this time the feedback has been 100% positive so far and, for me, that has been incredibly gratifying and made it all worthwhile. I'm now busy working on the next novel which takes as its central character, Detective Inspector Cannard who first appears in The Accidental Courier and it will also feature some of my other favourite characters from that book.
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About The Author
Robert Darke was born and raised in Cardiff but then moved around the UK with his job in HM Customs and Excise before eventually returning to settle back in his home town. He left Customs to provide IT Security and Audit services for several major organisations in the private and public sectors. In 2013 he took early retirement from his job as Head of Corporate Communication for a large government agency to allow more time to concentrate on his writing. He is also a keen photographer, hospital radio presenter and proud new member of the Harley-Davidson Owners Group (HOG) Great Western Chapter.
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