Cotton milling demonstration, Museum of Industry & Science, Manchester
Cotton milling machinery, Museum of Industry and Science, Manchester

Just before Christmas I reached a milestone in my “work in progress”. With a little over 50,000 words clocked up, I completed the first draft of my book. Now I’m working through the suggestions and comments of my primary editor, my daughter Amy, whose opinion and insights are always immensely helpful.

It has taken a long time to reach this point. Nearly eighteen months, if I begin the count from when I finished editing my last book. Sometimes it has been a case of writing a hundred words here and there, rather than producing a steady flow.

Oddly enough, one of the biggest barriers to writing another book has been the previous book, The Edward Street Baby Farm. Being a published author has its drawbacks! While I’ve been giving interviews and preparing talks about Edward Street, I’ve needed to keep all the material from that book fresh in my mind. I haven’t felt as though I have room in my head for another book’s worth of information. Perhaps it has something to do with my age.

Apparently ‘second book syndrome‘ is also a real thing (though I’m actually writing my third book). It’s difficult not to compare the first draft of this book with the final version of the last one and think ‘Could I ever produce another book as interesting as that? Didn’t I just fluke it?’ It’s harder this time to focus on the work itself and forget about publication, at least for now. Fortunately I don’t have a contract to worry about, which would make it five times worse.

Writer’s block has also played a part. After I’d written a few chapters, I hit a wall. For several weeks I found myself reluctant to go back to writing the chapter I’d started. Eventually I realised that what I was trying to write was boring me. And if it bored me, it would probably bore readers even more. It wasn’t material vital to the story. so I cut that section, and then the words began to flow more readily.

About 30.000 words into the first draft, I came to a halt again. I’d begun to lose confidence in the whole project. It seemed little more than a succession of ‘this happened then that happened’ without really going anywhere. I toyed with the idea of turning it into fiction, but soon gave that up. Eventually, after discussing the issues with other writers online, I began to see more promise in it, and decided to keep going. Just putting the problem into words seemed to help.

So now the first draft is done. The delays haven’t been all frustration. I’ve continued to collect research material, and my concept of what this book is about has been evolving. Having completed my sketchy first draft, I’m ready to start reshaping it, adding more colour and developing the threads and themes that have appeared. I’m very much looking forward to this year’s work.

May I take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very happy, peaceful and satisfying new year in 2022. Without readers, writing would be far less satisfying.

Work in progress – a first draft completed
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