Once upon a time …

there was a man who wanted to be a creative writer. He had been a soldier for many years and became a retail manager as a second career. Like his first line of work, he stayed with retail for a long time.

When the man’s son left home to further his education at a university, the man spent long days and nights sitting at his son’s abandoned computer. It took a lot of effort, but this guy was determined.

He eventually managed to write an autobiography of his life in military service.

He had served his country for 23 years, and it took him over 2 years to record his memories. He had a collection of documents, and a large collection of photographs, all of which assisted with details and names from the past. The story wasn’t presented properly, and he accepted the grammar and punctuation were all over the place, but the initial task was done. It would stay on floppy disks until he learned how to write properly. He would also decide whether the world was ready for his story.

One day while at work in a retail store, our ex-soldier relaxed alone with a coffee during his lunch break. He absently considered a scenario and wrote a simple poem. He’d had an idea for a story, but wasn’t sure how to write it, or even what length it should be. In a few minutes, he was telling the story in rhyming verse.

In the evening he went onto the Internet and located a poetry website. He read a few and figured he could equal some, or do better. Before joining the website he wrote a poem to introduce himself. Simple stories were flowing with this new hobby. He still had a yearning to write ‘proper’ stories, but he persevered with his poems.

Now considered by some to be a poet, the man wrote a series of poems to tell a longer story. The idea was well-received, and there followed a large number of serialised poems, each one becoming more detailed and exciting. The novice poet would have to study the craft of writing short stories, but not only in rhyme. He would impose an apprenticeship on himself.

*

As the weeks and months passed, the man joined other websites, especially for those who wrote short stories. The people on the sites would post their short stories and have them reviewed by fellow writers. At this point our ex-soldier, ex-manager learned a lot of valuable lessons about; writing, reviewing, people—and social media.

Editing and re-drafting were two key areas, so he started to buy books to study his new hobby in more depth. The desire to write was replaced by the desire to write well. It was a syndrome he was accustomed to since he always strived to do things to the best of his ability.

Our novice writer got good reviews regularly and won an international competition for one of his stories. He also won a national competition, and one of his stories was published in Whitby Abbey; Pure Inspiration, an anthology which celebrates a great British historical monument. Delighted with his progress, our writer was never satisfied with the first, second or even third draft of any story, or poem. He would leave his work aside and go back to it days, or weeks later, which was when he discovered he saw the story and the writing differently after a break.

*

He never allowed the low-level success go to his head, and continued to study his craft. Importantly he discovered one of the greatest aspects of his new venture was to read widely. Gone were the days of simply reading adventure stories and thrillers—he would read any genre, aimed at men, women or young adults. He found himself not only reading but studying, examining the structure, style and imagery.

As the months went by, our fledgeling writer had aspirations of much greater things for himself. He wanted to write a novel, like his idols: Robert Louis Stevenson, Wilbur Smith, Stephen King, Lee Child, Chris Ryan, and Frederick Forsyth.

In November 2011 our novice tackled the National Novel Writing Month challenge (NaNoWriMo). He used the basis of his Hawk poetry series to write a basic novel in a month and completed it. The bug had bitten deep.

Apart from poetry and stories, our scribe continued writing letters and opinion pieces to writing magazines. He learned the secrets to gaining publication in such revered magazines and won several prizes for ‘Star Letter’ and suchlike. There was a market for creating an article or series of articles for a magazine.

*

Our wannabe creative writer had a friend many thousands of miles away across the ocean. They had ‘discovered’ each other’s poetry and got in touch to ask questions about the origins of the work each had penned. In messages, via email, they discussed each other’s backgrounds and how they lived in the present time. The friend was a scientist and she had a fulfilling, demanding, and exciting career while living on the Pacific coast in an idyllic location.

Over a period of time, our novice writer started to build up a mental picture of his scientific friend, and her life so far away on a remote beach. He first made notes of ideas for a story, but the notes got longer and more detailed. The experience of the NaNoWriMo had taught him he was capable of writing something of length, but he had yet to write something of substance. The pull of writing a novel was too great; it had to be done, so the research began.

*

It took a year to produce a romance-based thriller entitled ‘Ten Days in Panama. He published it as an eBook on Smashwords, but it had no sales after a few weeks. He published via Amazon as an eBook and saw a few token sales.

The Hawk character was preying heavily on our writer’s mind, so he attempted his heart’s desire, to write an action thriller. It took several drafts and again many months but it resulted in ‘Beyond The Law’. For the first time, our writer had a grasp of what he could specialise in; if he took his novel writing seriously.

Suffice to say, in the course of his self-imposed apprenticeship, this guy had moved on between 2007 – 2012 from a wannabe writer with poetry, to a published writer of short stories, and novels. He had learned there were separate disciplines required for the various types of writing, so he went back to his portfolio of short stories, and his 700+ poems.

He revised his poems and set them out in lists by genre which became his series of poetry books. In the series, he produced such diverse titles as Humour, Love and Romance, Natural History, and Military Matters. When those first four volumes were complete he had tales which became the fifth volume; Thrills and Chills.

During the periods whenever his most recent novel was under wraps awaiting the next edit, our writer re-worked his short stories and compiled a collection to publish. This became Smoke & Mirrors and other stories.

Sometimes when his imagination demanded it, our man would pen an erotic short story. For the most part, they were experimental. He knew many writers of the genre did so for self-gratification, but our fellow wanted to push his own boundaries. During his life, he had gained a lot of valuable experience. He read a variety of erotic tales and discovered widely varying styles.

It came to pass, a combination of imagination, life-experience and desire to write, brought about the next collection; Coming Around and other erotic stories’.

While the short story collections were being worked on, the next novel was being brought out, dusted off, and reworked. At the same time, copious notes were made of items to research. Apart from online research and working from memory, our writer visited his son in mainland Europe on more than one occasion. He used the visits partly for more research. The next novel would entail using the real names and locations of places of interest, so communication was made to about 20 establishments.

Amsterdam Calling was the result of experience, research, imagination, contacts, determination and creative writing.

By the summer of 2014, our writer was high in confidence. He had established a blog, a website to showcase his artwork, writing and thoughts, and had paid to have an author website prepared. Ideas as always were crowding his mind so he set about a fresh plan. He was determined to take one of his latest ideas and work with it—avoiding all interruptions.

The first full draft of the vigilante action thriller, ‘A Taste of Honey’, was written in a little under six weeks. Like the other novels, it took longer to research and polish. Although it took such a short time to write the first draft, it was four months before he produced what would be the final edition. It proved a point for our writer. Aptitude and determination were more important to him than the requirement for lengthy periods of time.

*

By the end of 2014 with his growing portfolio, our man felt confident he had found his niche in writing—thrillers for adults. He knew he could come up with ideas for more, but something was nagging him. It was like an itch which had to be scratched, or it wouldn’t go away. He wondered if he could write for children.

‘Countryside Tales’ was briefly listed on the menu of our writer’s blog. It remained there for several months for two reasons.

First: it demonstrated an attempt at breaking into an interesting, but very specialised, and challenging genre.

Second: it served as a reminder—even as we are accepted and continue to improve in our chosen field, we cannot be all things to all people.

The ‘children’ genre for stories has now been removed from the author’s list of ‘things to do’.

*

I am the writer, who has been highlighted throughout this tale of dreams, trial, failure, success and ultimately acknowledgement by my peers. There are some good writers of stories for children out there; I will take stock, and move on.

My continued effort with A Life of Choice, made the story into a five-part fictional reworking of my first attempt. I followed the success of ‘Beyond The Law’, by changing the title to Beyond The Law: Formation, and then I wrote two more tales to end the story as a trilogy. Beyond The Law: Retribution, and Beyond The Law: Consequences are the second and third titles.

Following the success of the anthology, Coming Around: and other erotic stories, I spent several months working on a novel in the same genre, the result of which was Give & Take: A Tale of Erotica. This proved popular and inspired me to go on and write a series of five novellas, Highland Games. In 2018 a second erotica novel Curious and Camping: An Erotic Journey was published. It feels good to know I have more than one genre in which I’m comfortable writing short or longer works. My erotica writing deserved a home of its own so Tom Benson – Erotica was born.

During 2018, mainly due to requests by those who are not eReader users, I spent six months rewriting, and converting A Life of Choice into a paperback trilogy … suitably titled A Life of Choice: The Trilogy Edition.

Have I learned anything important in my progression from dreamer to published author?

I could suggest something cliche like, ‘never give up’, or ‘know your limitations’, but I believe there are three main things I’ve learned.

1.  A writer, whether Indie or otherwise, must work hard to ensure they deserve the accolade ‘published author’.

2.  In the community of Indie writers, there is one of the greatest support networks on the planet.

3.  When considering the first two points, we writers owe it to ourselves, our peers and especially our readers to work hard to produce the best in presentation, storytelling, and value for money. The credibility of our craft is in our hands.

Although my work is always aimed at suspending belief to take my readers into a world of fiction, this brief story has been a true record of my progress up until mid2018. Thank you for reading my tale, and I look forward to helping where and when I can. I will of course also be continuing to learn more about my chosen third career.

The learning never ends.

If you have played even a small part in my journey, whether it be buying my eBooks, reviewing, supporting this blog, or offering advice, I extend my sincere thanks.

Tom

***

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6 comments on “Once upon a time …

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this account of your writing experiences to date. Here and there, particularly when you first began writing I see echoes of my own experience of the present, and freely admit to looking at your progression loosely as a template for my how I would like to develop and advance my own writing.

    One thing I think you’ve neglected to say here is just how much time and effort you’ve also put into helping and encouraging other hopeful writers, myself included mate, so for that I can only say thanks..

    Liked by 2 people

    • Great to see you reading and commenting again Paul. Many thanks for checking out this piece and for leaving such a gracious comment. It never entered my head to mention the help I give to others, but it’s something I will continue to do. I have to admit that it is gratifying to see somebody in the early stages accepting some guidance and actually going ahead to make the amendments I’ve suggested.
      You have a head start on your writing mate because you are a storyteller – which isn’t the case for everybody. Also in your favour is tenacity and the ability to accept constructive criticism or ask for help. I’m looking forward to seeing your collection hit the airwaves. You’ve got over 150 guaranteed sales already – and that’s before we hit those links to our military groups! 😀

      Liked by 2 people

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