tagNovels and NovellasBy the Book Ch. 01

By the Book Ch. 01


April 30, 2004: Age 34 years and 364 days. As good a time as any to start my autobiography.

It's Britain, so it's raining. I'm British so it's important that I mention the weather: my communication skills would be zilch if I didn't. Today the weather came up no less than four times.


Neighbour: Terrible weather!

Me: And they call this the start of summer!

Neighbour: Gives the flowers a chance I suppose.


Newsagents: Not letting up, is it?

Me: Good for the flowers, though.

Newsagent: Pity I'm not running a garden centre.

No pleasing some folk. Luckily, though, for a while I got a bit of a rest from the weather. That was because I was busy watching a particularly nasty gatecrasher do an amazing amount of damage in a very short space of time.

No I wasn't at mad Aunt Maud's latest 21st birthday celebration – I'd decided to give that party a miss on account of it being held at the naturist park and my bikini line being more gorillian than Brazilian (that and not having a thing to wear) – No, I was at home facing the demon whose name is spake in whispers only: THE COMPUTER VIRUS.

As I sat helpless, it chewed its way through the 456 documents in my personal file, nibbling at a word here, digesting a paragraph there, spitting out the bits it didn't like. It particularly liked some of my earlier work: the sports review of 2000 for the local paper, the funny anecdotes that sprang forth from the mouths of my babies that I was hoping to cash in on in Take a Break, the letter I'd written to my best friend when she'd had her fourth nervous breakdown - the one that began 'Carol, get over yourself...'

By the time we reached 2002 I thought I had it on the run. I've got Norton Anti-virus and Swatit and I wasn't afraid to use either. Like a Samurai Warrior I was going in there to Kick ass, and I kicked and kicked and kicked until it kicked back.

The soundless noise a computer makes as it crashes is enough to break a writer's heart. Hours and hours of work gone, lost into the motherboard from hell. Hundreds of short stories, dozens of newspaper reports and three very, very important pieces of work. There was my trial script for Hollyoaks, the episode where Chloe and Matt were getting married and everything was going fine until DCI Dale drop-your-drawers comes in and arrests the groom. When I get the call from Phil Redmond, what am I going to say? There was a radio play – Pair Ranting. I won't give the story away but it's a play on words. Then there was the play that never was. I thought I'd written a masterpiece that was destined for the West End, but Peter, my director, told me it wouldn't even reach Southend. I thought I'd written a love story filled with pathos and dramatic tension: he said it was dross. And finally there was Winners.

Me: Hi, Peter, it's me Joanne.

Peter: Hi Jo, Lovely weather. (3)

Phew, he was in a good mood.

Me: If you're a duck.

Peter: To what do I owe the pleasure?

Me: Peter, you know my play, Winners?

Peter: Yes.

Me: The one that made its debut on the Unity Theatre last September?

Peter: Yes.

Me: The one I spent months agonising over?

Peter: For the third time, yes.

Me: Do you have a copy?

Peter: Yes, Why? Don't you?

Okay, we have to hold it there a minute while he laughs at his own joke. What can I say? He's a card.

Me: As it happens, no.

Peter: No what?

So now, unlike my masterful piece of writing – put on stage in Liverpool, no less - the conversation starts getting tedious. No I didn't make a back up copy. Yes, I know the importance of that now. Yes I will make a back up copy in future (fingers crossed). No, I didn't make a hard copy. No, I don't know what I'd do without you. Yes, you've saved my bacon – again.

But all was not lost. Opening up my e-mails there it was. Not quite the answer to everything, and certainly not my play, but – wait for it – an e-mail from the man I'd had a crush on for eighteen months. And swear to God, in one evening, thanks to the brilliance that is modern technology I'd gone from being a passing acquaintance to the one he was going to bed to dream about tonight. And best of all, he asked whether I'd like to join him one evening for a bite to eat. (That's our fourth and final mention and okay, so the spelling and the meanings are different but it's still whether and it's the kind of whether I like). More importantly, he wants to take me out. And best of all, he's going on holiday for a week! That gives me seven days to lose at least half a stone, scrub every last coffee stain off my teeth, buff and cream my body seven times, grow my nails to a suitably seductive scratching length, empty my entire wardrobe to see if there's anything for me to wear, give up and go shopping – well, I'll need underwear, at the very least! - think up interesting topics of conversation and read that tome on how to flirt with anyone and get everything you want!

Oh, and visit the doctor: I've got worms.


Hi to all who read this.

This is the opening chapter of a novel I'm working on. I'd love any advice people may have about the best way of getting it published but mainly I'd appreciate the encouragement to continue writing it.

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