Monday, 13 November 2017

After Ten Years of Blogging...


..it's a good moment to reflect. Actually, the ten-year anniversary was a month ago, but life has been too hectic to allow many moments of reflection. When I started this blog - the first post was on 13 October 2007 - my prime aim was to share my enthusiasm for crime writing. As part of this, I wanted to give  to anyone who was an interested an insight into the joys and frustrations of the professional life of a mid-list crime writer, someone who had been around for quite a long time, without becoming remotely famous. Hence the blog's title. I've often been asked if I write under my name, and it's a polite way of making it clear that the person asking the question has never heard of me.

In 2007, I had no idea of what the future held for me as a writer, but I did tell the story of my first TV option, and the fact that the dizzying excitement  ultimately faded when it became clear that the show would never be made. Ten years on, I've had half a dozen TV options, covering the Harry Devlin series, the Lake District series, and even The Golden Age of Murder, but still none of the scripts has actually made it on to the screen. It's frustrating (though option fees are definitely a consolation), but it's a common situation, and the only sensible reaction is to be philosophical. You can't be lucky all the time. And overall, I've been extraordinarily lucky.

If you'd told me ten years ago what would happen in my writing life over the next decade, I'd have suspected a cruel hoax. Back then, I wasn't even a member of the Detection Club, let alone its President, archivist, and author of The Golden Age of Murder. And I was nowhere near joining the committee of the CWA - my day job made it impossible - let alone becoming its Chair. I'd never won a literary award, and now I've picked up a totally unexpected number here and in the US, as well as various shortlistings. I'd never even set foot in the British Library, whereas in the past year I've been interviewed there by Mark Lawson, conducted a week-end master class there, plotted a murder mystery for their pop-up shop, and compiled my tenth BL anthology, as well as publishing The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books and clocking up more than 40 intros to the Classic Crime series.

The past three years, in particular, have been amazing, and it's hard to figure out exactly what has made the difference. Some of it must be down to the fact that, although I'm still a practising lawyer, I now spend much less time on the law, and much of the energy I devoted to the day job (and endless commuting) is now directed towards writing-related activities. I've found, as many writers found before me, that there are all sorts of fascinating opportunities out there

Since I returned to the UK from the Toronto Bouchercon last month, I've taken part in literary festivals in Lancaster and in Dalton-in-Furness (the ancient capital of Furness might just feature in the next Lake District Mystery!) and given library talks in York, Beeston, and West Bridgford and a bookshop talk in Bramhall. I've  hosted the CWA Daggers Awards and the Detection Club's main annual dinner, survived a CWA board meeting without provoking my admirable colleagues to launch a coup d'etat, enjoyed an excellent lunch with the CWA's Northern Chapter, and given a talk in London to a marvellous group of American crime fans, as well as signing a pile of copies of the CWA anthology Mystery Tour at Goldsboro Books and piles of other books in Foyles and Waterstones. It's been a mad whirl of activity, but hugely enjoyable.

And I hope that if there are any writers, or would-be writers, reading this who are struggling with confidence at present, my story may offer them a bit of encouragement. Despite all the pitfalls, it's a privilege to live a writer's life, and I hate to see talented authors become so discouraged that they give up, something that happens far too often.

Writing is, as I said at the Dagger awards, a tough game, and setbacks are many; even in the past couple of weeks, I've had a couple of projects run into snags. I'm still very, very far from being a Big Name among authors. But surely the point about writing is to try to make the most of your skills and your opportunities, and hope that an occasional lucky break will compensate for all the knock-backs, however numerous the latter. Above all, the key is to have a good time, no matter how many well-meaning people keep wanting to know if you write under your own name!







5 comments:

Xavier said...

Congratulations on this milestone and thanks for ten years of quality writing. Yours is one of the very best crime blogs around and your success as both an author and a blogger is well deserved. You may not have reached Ian Rankin-like bestseller status but you are read and appreciated by the true connoisseurs, which may be even better. I wish you all the best for the next ten years, not least that French publishers finally open their arms to you!

https://cjcjcountdownjohnschristiejournal.wordpress.com/ said...

Congratulations on 10 years blogging. I've been following your blog for the last year, after having started collecting the British Library Crime Classics. Your blog has lead me to other literary crime blogs, and I have been inspired by you all to have a go myself, and will be reviewing the entire Agatha Christie canon, starting early in 2018.

Dave said...

Great post, Martin, as they so often are here.

I've been an aspiring writer since I was eight years old. It's weird that some people only ever seem to know huge names like J.K Rowling or Stephen King, as though they have never browsed a bookshop or even Amazon.

My big aim is to be a career writer - like you and Edward Marston and Peter Lovesey etc - and if that means being mid-list than I too shall wear that with pride, as it will be a mind-boggling accomplishment. Having a few stories published, as I have this last year in the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, is hopefully the first step on a long journey, but nothing's for sure.

Keep blogging - particularly the book and film reviews, which are always of interest - and being such a champion for Golden Age detective fiction!

A.D. Garrett said...

Lovely blog, Martin. I recall discussing the importance of bloody minded detrrmination with you some years ago. As is so often the case, you were right.

Jason Half said...

Congratulations on your blogging anniversary, and on your many endeavors and successes. (It's difficult to believe that you are so prolific and still practice law!) I devoured The Golden Age of Murder several months ago and I'm waiting patiently for a block of time to read the newly acquired Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, an early Christmas present to myself.

Best wishes with the television projects and I look forward to both blog entries and books (and more) in the decade to come! -- JH