In 1997 I was sitting in Hatchets pub in Bath with my friends. At the time I was a journalist working for Future Publishing and most of my friends were work colleagues. We started discussing the opening sentences of books and named our favourites – mine was A Tale of Two Cities. This lead on to us trying to come up with good opening lines of our own. I came up with,
It was a cold day in hell.
That evening I went home and sat down at my Apple Macbook Duo and wrote the first three pages of a book called Afterlife Ltd. Over the next couple of weeks I wrote another 15,000 words. Then I stopped writing it.
Over the years I would return to Afterlife Ltd. I wrote bits of at least six different versions of the book, but I never pushed on with it. When I did chance upon the file on my hard drive I would open it and rewrite a bit here and a bit there. Then I would close the file and not open it again for a few years.
Occasionally I would tell people about the book. I would discuss the theme and the plot. This would usually lead to another noodling session in which I would twiddle with a paragraph here and there. Sometimes I even added new bits. On one occasion I moved the whole thing into the excellent Scrivener in the hope that this would help me begin working on the book again. It did not.
Then during the Christmas 2015 holiday I got a two month trial for a CPAP machine. I had been diagnosed with severe sleep apnoea and had been advised to use one of those to help me sleep properly. The results were that I had my first decent night’s sleep in about 30 years. It was profoundly liberating and I discovered I had a huge amount of energy once more. During those same Christmas holidays I mentioned the book to a friend and said I would return to it. So I did. And I wrote about 45,000 words in the space of just two months.
The book is now finished in draft form and I am going to try and get it published. It has been a long haul – nearly 20 years – from when I wrote that first sentence to the complete book that I have now. I hope that an agent or publisher sees something in it and that it makes it to the shelves of a book store.