It seemed like a new idea at the time.

FOR about 25 years I threatened to try to write a novel.

I would like to compare my lack of accomplishment with the time taken by Joseph Heller and Harper Lee to write the sequels to Catch 22 (13 years) and To Kill A Mockingbird (55 years).

However, my argument hits an early sticking point with the phrase “follow-up”, because you actually need a predecessor worth following before you can make that claim.

I only have a short story called Mirrors of Apathy in a book called Paperclips Yorkshire, which was published in 1993 and when I google it, it gives me a recommendation for a breathable sports bra that I would love to buy, as well as, to be fair, The Great Gatsby.

My first attempt at a novel, spurred on by a period of unemployment and then foiled by the need to bring in money, ran to about 60 pages and Salvation Army Strumming never saw the light of day or, indeed, a shelf.

I kept telling everyone I would, and eventually the inspiration came while vacationing in Italy and quickly left.

It took me another few years before I scanned my initial notes and re-ignited my efforts, even insisting that we return to the same place to allow me to reconnect with the area and its people and, uh, its beer and wine.

Another year of late nights and weekends spent in front of the computer passed and I had the required 80,000 words. I then thought that was decent, after taking a brief online course on writing fiction I realized that was not the case and I had even committed a few deadly sins, but not those of starting the novel with “Once upon a time” or ending it with “then I woke up and it was all just a dream”, which are actually probably better than mine.

So I went back, revised the whole thing, then again, and again, and again, probably deleting half the chapters, reordering and rewriting others, while adding new storylines.

The latest version (seven) is now complete (exclusive serialization rights granted free to the Advertiser!) but will no doubt require more drastic changes and modifications, as will the cover letter and synopsis, all of which will be packed and sent to potential editors/agents will be followed by the inevitable rejections, if they even bother to reply.

I’ve complained about celebrities getting published with no questions asked first, and I have a deep admiration for those who start from scratch, take a job because they don’t have enough money to quit and sign up to write over 80,000 words that may never be published, and actually succeed.

More applause to the writers of yesteryear who delivered handwritten manuscripts and had to wade through hundreds of pages to make corrections and edits. I’m surprised Leo Tolstoy could see after finishing his 1,225 pages of War and Peace, but at least he had his country estate to rest after a hard day with a pen in hand.

It’s a long journey and even if your book is accepted (say you’re David Walliams or a member of the royal family, for example), there’s no guarantee anyone will buy it.

Then I woke up and it had all been a nightmare.

Irene B. Bowles