I’m very excited to be writing this post because I have something very exciting to tell you that I’ve only told a very small handful of people in real life.
I’ve written a book!
Well, it’s not finished. But I’ve just had the proof copy of the sixth draft and I’m hoping that after a final proofread and subject to Tom not hating it, it should be published in September.
Back in the summer of 2015, TV’s Alexander Armstrong did a three-part ITV documentary series called In the Land of the Midnight Sun, where he did a journey from Bodø, two-thirds of the way up the Norwegian coast, across the top of Scandinavia and Finland, up to Svalbard, across to Iceland, then Canada and Alaska. And I watched it with some interest. However, it also came with a tie-in book. I vividly remember sitting in Hammersmith Apollo in October 2015, waiting for Dara O Briain to come on stage, reading it on my Kindle and thinking “I’ve done a journey a bit like that. If he can get a book out of it, so can I.” And I got out my phone and started writing it there and then.
It wasn’t an entirely new idea. When I go away, I write a blog. It started as a way of assuring my mum that I wasn’t dead (she assumes I’m dead if I step out of the house) but now I write it because I enjoy it and because it’s an invaluable resource, both for this blog and for the book. Every time I update it, I put a link on Facebook and friends and colleagues now read it too. I don’t even know how many times people have said “You should write a book!” and how many times I’ve tried to explained that it’s not as easy as that.
And it’s not! I thought I’d done all the research just by going to these places and paying a reasonable amount of attention while I’m there but over the course of these six drafts, I’ve found myself researching the following:
- Russian nuclear icebreakers
- The population of each London borough
- Geothermal power production
- The Nazis in Norway
- solar flares
- Major civil engineering projects
- Fifteen century volcanic eruptions
- The life and times of Jean Sibelius
- Musk oxen
- Gun laws in the High Arctic
- the habits of polar bears
And that’s just a small sample. I also developed enough of an interest in Norwegian that I started learning it and fell in love with it (I’m at Level 13 on Duolingo and Level 15 on Mondly). My Norwegian is now roughly at the standard of a toddler and I can get the gist of a newspaper article, provided it’s got a picture to set me on the right track.
I’ve also learnt how to deal with a large document that has multiple sections, how to wrestle with headers and footers and how frustrating it is when your text can’t decide what page it wants to be on and so strobes violently between them, refusing to settle no matter how hard you try.
I’ve found that by far the easiest way for me to edit the manuscript is to print it – and when I say print, I mean have it printed in book format. If I printed it myself, it would be about 100 pages of A4 which is very unwieldy for carrying around as I go to work, camp and the local fayre. And also, I like having books with my name on the cover. So now I have six versions of my book. Every version is bigger than the last, it’s gone through three different titles (and that’s just the ones that have survived to printing) and three different covers. Draft 1 was just under 24,000 words. Draft 6 is 68,500 words. It’s not a big book and I’ve made it in pocket format so it’s a truly little book. But it’s all mine and it’s got my name on it and I love my little inkbaby.
Oh – it’s self-published. There’s no book deal here, no agent, no publisher. I looked at sending it round the publishers in the usual way but there’s no money in the travel writing genre – and I don’t mean no money for me. I mean no one gets published except established writers like Bill Bryson, celebrities like Alexander Armstrong & that one in million who gets lucky. Maybe when I write the Iceland book I’ll send it out into the big scary professional world.
So, September. It’s currently called Minus Twelve: An Arctic Adventure and I don’t know if I’m more nervous or more excited.