April 2018 was a pretty crap month for me. I’d written nine screenplays and one novel, all of which were languishing in a file on my laptop gathering the cyber equivalent of dust. I was (still am) 48 years old, also gathering dust and grey hairs and increasingly feeling that I was never going to get anywhere. If you’re a writer or artist of any sort, you’ve doubtless had similar months (or years) where the effort to stay positive seems to be just a little too much and you are THAT CLOSE to giving up and getting a ‘proper’ job. That’s certainly where I was heading.
Flashback to August 2015. My first trip to Venice. I’d always wanted to go there, and the minute the ferry from the mainland turned into the Grand Canal I fell in love with the place. I came straight home and wrote a screenplay set there. It got longlisted by the BBC Comedy Room, but it wasn’t quite right, even after I used it as an excuse to go back to Venice the next year (research is such hell!). But I wasn’t ready to let go of it so, encouraged by fellow writer Carmen Radtke, who’d enjoyed the script, I set about turning it into a novel. I’d always shied away from novels – so many words! – but having a script to work from meant I already had the mother of all outlines to guide me. In a spirit of mad bi-polar optimism I entered it for the inaugural Audible Crime Grant, then promptly forgot about it because nobody wins with the first draft of their first novel.
And then I sank back into my pit of despair. Going nowhere.
At the end of April, just as I was about to pawn my laptop and move to the countryside to breed alpacas, a producer saw a logline I’d tweeted and asked to see the script. I was pessimistic but sent it anyway; what did I have to lose? He might as well read it while I watched ‘how to knit funny hats from alpaca wool’ instructional videos on YouTube…
And then came the week in May 2018 that changed everything. The producer asked if he could pay me some money and option my script. Umm, HELL YEAH! I’d barely got over the shock when Audible contacted me to say that ‘Dead in Venice’ had been shortlisted and, although I hadn’t won, they were still going to publish it. Almost overnight – after years of hard work – I’d become an optioned screenwriter and a published novelist.
Listen to a sample below…
The whole point of this is – don’t give up. Keep writing, even when you seem to be getting nowhere. You might be on the verge of giving up, but you could also be on the brink of success. Some of you may’ve seen me around LSF wearing my ‘Stay on the f*cking bus’ t-shirt. STAY ON THE FUCKING BUS! Don’t get off when the journey gets tough or you seem to be stuck in road works. Just keep going. The roadside is littered with people who got off and will now never get to where they want to go. Don’t be one of them!
‘Dead in Venice’ is available now on www.audible.co.uk