As a freelance writer I’ve created content for several best-selling US thriller authors over the years, and I’ve always fancied writing a book myself. A few years back I had a close call with a funny book about Yorkshire, then my publisher went bust thanks to a stocktaking mistake by one of Britain’s biggest and best-respected high street bookstores.
Now I’m diving in again, this time with a comedy thriller novel about my murderous alter-ego, The Nurse. It’s called The Nurse Diaries – The Life and Times of a Brighton serial killer.
So far I’m up to 11,500 words and aiming for a word count of 90,000, the average count for a novel. And, interestingly, the writing process isn’t anywhere near as challenging as I’ve heard it can be. I’ve talked to writers who struggle endlessly to get just a few words down on paper each day, or who have massive writer’s blocks, or who pace to and fro’ for hours on end, month after month, in pursuit of inspiration. People who write a chapter then linger for years over the second one, people who get into dire straits simply trying to create a workable plot.
Having never written a piece of fiction quite this long before, it’s an eye opener. I’m working on The Nurse Diaries in my spare time and some days it flows easily, a few thousand words without a hitch. Other days I’m fit for editing-only, with no clue about the next stage in the story and a sneaking feeling I might run dry.
Creating the introduction and jacket blurb first helped me set the scene and pin down the tone of voice I wanted. I started off writing The Nurse’s story, now I’m adding in her backstory and those of the other characters: Betty, Hairy Dave, Chemical Dave and The Chief Surgeon. Interestingly the story has naturally emerged in the present tense, nothing to do with me but seemingly chosen by The Nurse herself, who calls herself ‘The Nurse’.
So far I’ve edited my first 11,000 words twenty two times. And that’s where, for me, the hard work lies. The words flow, as does the rest, but making certain that every word works perfectly in relation to every other word is what matters, takes the most time of all.
Here’s the introduction and jacket blurb. Would they inspire you to read The Nurse Diaries?
Introducing The Nurse – The jacket blurb
‘The Nurse imagines she can taste the salty tang of the sea on the westerly breeze but it’s probably wishful thinking. The English Channel’s siren call has always brought out the best in her. Or the worst, depending on your perspective. If you object to having your skull trepanned when you’re least expecting it, you probably won’t approve. If, on the other hand, you think carrying out amateur brain surgery on unwitting victims without their permission sounds like fun, she’ll see you in Brighton.’
The Nurse Diaries – The life and times of a Brighton serial killer
The Nurse is in prison. She’s been banged up at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in a half forgotten ex-asylum for three decades, deep in the marshy Cambridgeshire fens. Her only way to communicate with the outside world is her beloved smartphone, hidden somewhere unmentionable to stop the Screws getting their filthy hands on it.
Writing helps The Nurse forgets she’s stuck in a damp, cold jail. When she’s writing she feels free. Part of the real world. Part of society. The rest of the time she’s bored shitless… therefore extremely dangerous.
The Nurse knows she’ll never be released. People find her ghastly crimes too awful to contemplate. But when, on the edge of starvation, she breaks out of solitary confinement, The Nurse realises the Screws have disappeared, her fellow inmates are dead, and she is finally, wonderfully free.
Welcome to The Nurse Diaries.
Update 30th December 2019
Here’s an update on my novel. By mid-December 2019 I’d completed 90,000 words and edited the whole thing numerous times. The main challenge has been to make sure everything happens in the right order. When you’ve got ninety thousand words to deal with it isn’t easy to be consistent, constantly going backwards and forwards.
The ideas for the plot just flowed. I’d sit in the evenings and write notes, inspired by things my husband said and funny stuff we saw on telly, then write them up the next day. I never got stuck or bored. The process was a huge pleasure, and the book took a mere three months to write.
In mid December 2019 I had ten copies wiro-bound and printed, ready for proofreading. I have kept a proof copy for myself and have three readers lined up so far. I need six more people to proofread the first draft for me, then I’m going to take it to the final version and sit on things for a couple of months to see if any more ideas occur.
Next, it’s time to polish up my marketing skills. I’m going to start marketing the novel in March 2020 with a view to having a stock of books to sell, one way or another, in time for Xmas 2020. It might mean self-publishing to sell on a ‘sale or return’ basis via specialist shops. I might be fortunate enough to find a publisher. It will probably involve Amazon print-on-demand. I may set up a website. We’ll see. I’ll even be sending copies to a bunch of people, some well known, who might find it fun, and also to relevant organisations and sales outlets. All with a handwritten letter from The Nurse.