A brief history of failure

 I started self-publishing my work in June of this year, but I’ve been writing for about twenty-five years on and off. I thought I’d share a little of what has worked and what hasn’t over that time, along with why I decided to self-publish.


What I was doing

< 13

I’d been reading a lot from a young age. We used to visit the library once a week when I was younger. I always checked out three books and raced through them. My favourites were the Dr Doolittle books and anything by Enid Blyton.


At about thirteen, I read a book called “The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted” by Harry Harrison. That was the first book where I thought, ‘I want to write something like this.’

 The book is about a thief called Jim diGriz in a far off future where crime is almost eliminated. It’s a funny, action, sci-fi book which set me reading anything I could find by Harry Harrison.

 It also got me more interested in writing and I started writing things and giving them to my friends in school.

 My English teacher at the time, Greg Collins, was very encouraging and made me even more motivated to write.


After my Intermediate certificate, at age 16, I went on to Higher English with a new teacher. She was less than encouraging about my writing. For our first writing assignment for the class, we were meant to write two pages for a story. I wrote fourteen.

 The feedback I got was, “Don’t write so much.” It’s understandable, in hindsight. She wasn’t really interested in being a teacher (she quit a few years later), and extra work was just extra hassle for her.

 However, this did make me question my writing and whether it really was as good as people had been saying.


Coming to the end of secondary school, I told my guidance counsellor that I wanted to study journalism in college. I was also interested in computer games, so he strongly suggested that I do that instead.

 I went for IT in college, instead of journalism. I’ve had a very comfortable life in IT, so I can’t blame my guidance counsellor for advising me to study IT. However, I do wonder where journalism school would have taken me.

19 – 22

At college, I was 100% IT all the time. I did write a little during that time, but it was mostly awful poetry about a girl in the class I was in love with, but didn’t know I existed.

 After almost two years of mooning after someone with no interest in me, I decided to go out on a date with someone else instead.  I’m still with that someone, my wife Heidi, today.


I started working in various IT jobs and writing in the evenings. I discovered screenwriting and began writing a lot of scripts. Scripts were easy to write. My weakness has always been description. My strengths have always been dialogue and ideas. So screenwriting seemed ideal.

 At the time, I was pantsing all of my scripts (Writing without a plan), so I would rewrite each one nine or ten times to get the plot right. I submitted a few to TriggerStreet.com and made a few into short films.

 However, I discovered during this time that I am an awful director. My scripts had people laughing out loud. My films had people saying, “Well that was… interesting.”


I gave up screenwriting and tried pantsing a book. It was called “The Pathological Runner” and it was long, rambling and incoherent. I didn’t know how to make it any better.


I dropped it as a lost cause and wrote two more books, “Why Won’t He Wake Up” and “Daffodil Gefunk and the Nine Dragons”.

 The first book was the incredibly depressing story of a child with a terminal illness and the family around him self-destructing. It was difficult to get anyone to care about the book.

 The second book was the first one I ever even had a slight plan for. It was a kids’ story about a little girl who travels through time to help a prince rescue his father. It had some redeeming qualities. It was still incoherent, but the plan I’d had made it better.


I started my fourth book, “Jollytown Patrol”, which later became “The Bite on the End of the Line”. I made a brief plan and started writing. At about the halfway point, I ran out of ideas and stopped.


My writing petered out for a while. I wanted to finish my fourth book, but I just didn’t know how. I read a lot of writing books but none of them helped.

 In 2012, I was getting migraines every few weeks. My migraines are excruciating and take me out of work for days. I went to the doctor.

 The doctor told me that I had very high blood pressure and that I needed to start medication for it. He also sent me to get an MRI of my head for the migraines.

 The MRI showed a lump in my brain. My uncle died of a brain tumour, so this shocked me to the core. My doctor told me it could be nothing, but I still worried.

 A follow-up MRI revealed that it was nothing. It’s just an abnormality in my brain and nothing to worry about

 In the same year, I read a book called “Writing Fiction for Dummies” and started listening to a podcast called “Writing Excuses”.

 All of those things came together and made me take back up my book and finish it. This time, I wrote a plan, I stuck to it and my novel made sense. I started to edit it and discovered a podcast called “The Self-Publishing Podcast”. They let me know that I didn’t even need a publisher to get my books out there. I could put them up on Amazon myself.


On my 38th birthday, I published my first book. Right now, I’m working on my fourth and fifth books and have no intention of stopping.

 Two things I’ve realised since 2012 are:

1. That I don’t have infinite time. If I want to write stories for people, now is the only time I’ve got;

2. I can publish my books, people can read them and enjoy them and no-one can stand in the way of that.

 In our modern age, there are no English teachers, guidance counsellors or publishers in the way of writing a good story. The only thing in the way is lack of self-motivation.  To quote Fight Club: “You must realize that one day you will die. Until then you are worthless.”



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