walking

Parallel Paths

In my last blog I talked about the Diagonal Walking project moving onto a fresh phase: getting published. This is now well underway and on schedule (for schedule there is). It’s fun but terribly time consuming. It might come as some surprise therefore, to learn that Diagonal Walking isn’t the only book I have on the go. I also have a novel ready and this has been in the background, a few steps ahead, all summer. Lessons learned from bringing that book to life have helped in the planning for this one. As such, I thought it would be interesting to compare the two processes. Also, I have a proposition for you …. but more on that later.

 

Chip, Chip, Chipping Away

It’s now nearly three weeks since my last blog. At that time, I’d finished a first draft of the book. Since then, it’s been a case of chip, chip, chipping away, refining, revising and generally tinkering with the manuscript. Part of this has been about tightening the narrative. This meant being ruthless with discarding bits of it that I like, but aren’t really quite working. Another part is about ‘voice’: getting a consistency through the text, after all it was written in stages.

 

Timing

In all, I’ve now gone through the text three times and it’s time to show it to someone else. This is an emotional moment. Up until now, the manuscript has been my ‘baby’, now I have to show it to someone else and get their reaction. I’ve been here before, as I describe below, but it’s never easy. The Brexit angle to the book also makes it difficult to state categorically that its finished. This is a moving target, with fresh developments almost daily. As such, it’s tempting to stay with the story to see how it pans out. The recent party conferences and the planned big Peoples Vote March serve to reinforce this, but my book has to be a record of the summer, not the summer, autumn and winter, otherwise it would never get finished.

 

Editing and Proofing

That someone else is an editor. Their job is to go through the text and highlight areas where it is and isn’t working, where it may be confusing or inconsistent, and to pick up on mistakes in syntax, sentence structure and spelling. As I mentioned last time around, I identified a couple of potential candidates from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. One quoted me on a straight day rate, the other offered to edit a chapter to show what he could do and to give him an idea of how much work was involved. This was good marketing, as I have now commissioned him and sent him the complete manuscript. Once I have implemented any suggested changes here, ideally by the end of the month, the book then needs to be proofed, which is the real fine toothcomb stuff, and will probably cost much the same (around £500).

 

Publishers

The saga of securing a publisher continues. There are two runners and riders left in this field. One I have worked for before and, following encouraging noises, I am still waiting to hear back from. The other I chased, and she came back saying she liked the idea and style and been, in her words, prevaricating on whether to offer a contract. In the end, she said no, mainly because she was concerned she couldn’t achieve the necessary sales. I didn’t take no for an answer however and went back to open a discussion about what a good level of sales might be. To cut a long story short, she has now agreed to look at the full manuscript, but it’ll take her a ‘few weeks’ before she can come back to me. Frustrating. There’s progress, but boy, is it slow.

 

A Parallel Project

Dark comedy

Which brings me onto my other project, the novel. You see, I’ve been here before, and know what it’s like. The novel is called The Bond, or Last Man Standing. It’s a coming of age tale for a generation, but I also describe it as a black comic murder mystery. I’ve been writing this for a while now, but set myself the target of getting it finished before I started to walk diagonally, using that time for it to go through the publishing mill.

Here, I went through the same process of using a freelance editor and proofer (the same people), although in this case, the book went through three stages: the copy edit and proof, plus a development edit. This came first and was more about plot and characters. As there isn’t really any of this in Diagonal Walking I’ve decided against one of these here.

 

An Agent Mr Bond?

The Bond or Last Man Standing was less time sensitive, so I decided to try to see if I could get a traditional publisher interested. The only viable way of doing that these days is to get an agent. These are listed in the Writers and Artists Yearbook, and I dutifully sent the book away to a selection of these, topping up with a fresh approach every time I got a rejection.

None of them seemed to be taking the bait, so in the end I decided to opt for self-publishing on this one. There was some good learning here. Firstly, I think the novel was too hard to define, it didn’t have a strong ‘sound bite’. Also, it wasn’t part of a series. This is definitely the fad now, ideally a detective with a troubled back story. Yes, I know. I suppose the agent and/or publisher wants to know you represent an income stream into the future, rather than a one-off. Also, the book was probably a bit too long, at 137,000 words (Diagonal Walking is around 97,000). That represents at least 400 pages – too many for a first timer it seems.

 

Making It Happen

Having made the decision to go it alone, there were a number of things to be done and decided. The first was how ‘large’ I wanted to go. Here, I decided to release the book as an e-book, using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform in the first instance. This also has the facility for printing one-off (or more!) copies on a print on demand basis. My plan is to use this for a handful of copies in order to test the price, quality and to produce some review copies. If the price and quality if okay, then fine, I’ll make paperbacks available on Amazon that way. If not, I’ll get them done externally, probably using these guys who offer a range of services to the self-publisher. Their prices seem fairly reasonable too – around £3.60 a copy if I print 100, or £2.91 each for a run of 250).

 

Bits and Pieces

Before then though, there’s some other things. First, a cover. I scouted the internet and ended up using these guys. I was pleased with their creativity, willingness to keep tinkering with the design (they say they offer three revisions, but I ended up doing a bit more, although they were relatively minor) and price – around £260. This included a front cover, a 3D version, social media banners and a full front, spine and back version.

The book also needed an International Standard Book Number (ISBN). This is the unique thirteen-digit number ascribed to your work. You don’t technically need one of these for an e-book (or Amazon can assign you one), but you do for a printed book. You can buy these in singles or in bulk, but I ended up buying one from these guys, for around £50.

The book also needed a ‘blurb’ – the description on its Amazon page and on the back of the book which encourages people to buy. Finally, all these come together. I used Amazon’s Kindle Create to format the book. This is a fairly easy to use system, once you get the hang of it. Taken together, this is enough to get the book live, which is what I wanted. Once the book is physically published, there are other things that have to be done, such as registering on the Nielsen database, which makes it easier for book stores to locate the book, and sending off Legal Deposit copies, but this is for the future.

 

The Offer

The Bond or Last Man Standing is now live on Amazon, and I am looking this as a sort of Beta version. I’m not actively marketing it at the moment, but what I am doing is making it available – for a limited time period – to followers for the minimum I can, a mere 99p. All I ask is you buy it (less than half the price of a latte), read it, and if you like it, review and rate it. Also, if you spot any errors, let me know through this email: nick@nickcorble.co.uk – not on the review, and I will make the changes. One of the big advantages of Amazon’s system is it’s possible to refresh the version on their system.

 

So what’s stopping you? You get a great book for 99p, and I get some momentum!

Now, back to Diagonal Walking ….

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The End of the Beginning?

I’m feeling a bit guilty. It’s been a while since I posted an update on progress, but there is a good reason for that. I’ve been walking! Planning, walking, writing, marketing, reaching out to publishers. Reaching out to publishers? Didn’t I say in my last progress blog that I was minded to go down the self-publishing route? Well … yes, but I’ve been having a bit of a re-think. More of that later.  First, a bit on the wheres and wherefores …

 

How’s The Walking Going?

walking

It never rains but …

 

It’s going very well thanks. The weather has been a bit of an issue, with temperatures reaching into the thirties during the fourth stage of the walk. Still, it’s better than rain. The heatwave seemed to disappear between the fourth and fifth stages. It felt like we were back to a normal English summer. This meant, of course, I got to experience what it felt like to be a drowned rat while walking.

WGC

The Centre of Welwyn Garden City

 

The fourth leg saw me walking from Newport Pagnell, through Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire and into Epping Forest and the north-east London boroughs. Along the way, I walked along the River Lea for a fair bit – more on that here.

I also got to visit another new town and compare it with Milton Keynes. I’m talking about Welwyn Garden City, which is coming up to its centenary. As such, it probably doesn’t really qualify as a new town anymore. Anyway, more on Welwyn here.

Highams Park Lake

 

I also had the pleasure of being invited to look around a community project at Highams Park in Epping Forest. Here I met Gordon and Martin, and I recorded a podcast with the latter, which can be found here. Finally, I drifted into London, which was quite a different experience. There will be more on this, and how I nearly got mugged, in the book. In the meantime, here’s a picture of a tuk-tuk to illustrate the diversity I found there:

Yes, a tuk-tuk, parked up on a London drive.

 

Walking Through Kent

The fifth and final stage has been broken into two parts, and it’s the first of these I’ve just come back from. This stage involved crossing the Thames. As it happens, my diagonal line goes right through the Dartford Crossing. Alas, no pedestrians are allowed on the bridge, so I needed to have a think. Luckily, there’s a bus which runs from the Lakeside Shopping Complex to the north of the bridge to the Bluewater one on the south. Why anyone would want to use this route is beyond me – comparison shopping? Anyway, it suited my purposes, and for the princely sum of £3 I found deposited myself in Kent: my final county. I think I was unusual in wanting to get off in between the two shopping centres. The driver was asking me the way!

The weather on this leg was more suited to April than August – sunshine and showers. Still, I got to stay in places with wonderful names such as Bean and Snodland. I even went to Bluewater, because it was the nearest place to eat. The pub in Bean doesn’t do food on a Friday night. Why would it? Madness. I was there the day that it was announced that House of Fraser, one of the centre’s three anchor stores, was being taken over by Sports Direct. This gives me the chance to use the following picture to ask whether storm clouds are gathering over the retail trade:

Are the storms gathering over the retail business?

 

I was also joined on this leg for two days by my sister Sue. This is the first time I’ve had a diagonal walker with me for two consecutive days. We had a good catch up, and it was interesting to sees things (and places) through someone else’s eyes. My brother in law Tim was kind enough to ferry us around, as there was a dearth of places to stay when walking in the Weald of Kent, certainly on my route anyway. Anyway, you’ll have to wait for the book to find out what we saw and thought, and some of the encounters we had with people, and, in particular, with sheep. And fruit. A lot of fruit.

walking

Sister Susie holding shirt (not shoulders)

 

Publishing Rethink

 

Talking about the book, writing the last blog was cathartic, but it got me thinking. A mantra I’ve always followed in life is if you don’t ask, you don’t get. As a result, before setting off on this latest leg, I put together a pitch and synopsis and sent these to medium sized publishers who publish this sort of thing. I have avoided the big boys for the reasons stated in my earlier blog i.e. I’m not established enough. Plus, the book isn’t finished, although I have been writing it as I go.

At the same time, I’ve been looking at digital publishers for a novel, which is finished and ready to go. These are a newish kid on the block, specialising in e-publishing, with a sideline in physical books. These might offer a decent backstop position, or a comparator to the self-publishing option.

Finally, I’ve decided to approach publishers I’ve worked with before. You may wonder why I haven’t done this already, and it’s a good question. The main reason was because my other books have tended to be more of a niche interest and I didn’t think they’d be interested. But, as I say, don’t ask, don’t get. Plus, as luck would have it, I noticed a book on similar lines by one of my previous publishers on sale in a shop in a tiny village in Kent during the walk.

Karma.

 

The Numbers

Finally, an update on numbers. I’m now tantalisingly close to the four figure mark on Instagram followers. Also, I counted up the number of ‘likes’ my pictures have had for the publisher pitch. Over 16,000. Not bad.

Tantalisingly close to 1,000!

 

The Twitter numbers are creeping upwards, as are the Facebook followers, although for some reason the podcast downloads have stalled. In terms of miles and steps, I’m now on 821,000 steps and 380 miles. As such, I’m unlikely to break the million steps, in fact I definitely won’t unless I get hopelessly lost during the past two days.

SEO walking

Writing, writing

 

In terms of word count on the book, I’m now up to 70,000, aiming for somewhere in the region of 85-90,000 for the whole thing, which is a manageable number. I’ve been making a lot of notes for the conclusion, which are included in that 70,000, and indeed, a conclusion is beginning to form – but again, sorry, you’ll have to wait for that!

I might be nearly the end of the walk, but as a certain wartime leader might have said, this isn’t the beginning of the end, merely the end of the beginning. I will continue to post updates on the actual process of writing and publishing the book. As these last two blogs have shown, this can be an up and down business mentally, and I will be sharing the journey here.

So keep following, and stay diagonal!

 

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The Sense of an Ending

Welcome back to another ‘eve of walk’ themed blog, written as I wind up the planning for the fourth leg of Diagonal Walking. As with the last ‘Progress’ blog, I’m going to use this one to bring you up to speed with the walk itself and also some of the work going on behind the scenes regarding the Diagonal Walking travelogue. As has now also become the norm, I’ll also give an update on some numbers.

 

 

Where Now?

The last leg left me in Newport Pagnell, although I added a day on to the end of that stage to visit Milton Keynes. There, caught up with both the town itself, and the people living in the house I helped build there over thirty years ago. There’s more on this in this podcast which is also available on the Diagonal Walking feed on iTunes. Just so it didn’t feel left out, I also wrote a separate blog on Newport Pagnell.

From the delights on the north of Buckinghamshire, on this fourth stage I’ll be heading into Bedfordshire. For much of the way I’ll be following the line of the MI, well, at least as far as Luton. I’m staying the night in Luton and hope to have a little bit of time to explore why it has such a reputation for extremism. That’s of both the far-right and Jihadist varieties. Wish me luck. Luton also presents one of the route’s main physical obstacles. The diagonal line passes directly through the main runway of the town’s airport! Luckily, there’s a way around it, following the Upper Lea Valley Walk, but things could get a bit noisy for a while.

There’s a fair bit of urban walking on this leg, especially towards the end, when I pass through East London. Before then though I have the delights of another new town to explore (Welwyn Garden City). The diagonal also passes a house I used to live in (it’s literally within yards of the line). As such, I’ve written to the current occupiers to see if a visit is possible. I’ll keep you posted.

From there, I pass through Enfield, Chingford and Walthamstow. So, if you’ve got used to pretty pictures of fields on the Instagram and Facebook accounts, get ready for something different in the coming days. As I write, the exact end point of this leg is open to events, but put it this way, I won’t be far from the River Thames, which I have a cunning plan to cross.

 

 

Route Planning

Planning for each stage requires a fair bit of work. Not only do I have to calculate a route and prepare copies of it onto A4 sheets, but I also have to find places to stay along it. Taking lessons from earlier in the walk, I try to find places as close to the route itself as possible. I’ll even manipulate the route to make this possible. While still keeping to my three mile corridor of the diagonal of course.

As such, once I’ve sketched out a route I then have to find potential places to stay. These may be budget hotels (all I need is a clean room, a bathroom and wifi), and ideally near somewhere I can eat. Airbnbs or kindly friends and family who can put me up also feature. Naturally, when planning, I start at the beginning of the route and then work my way down. You don’t want to fix up the back end of the trip and find the front end is impossible. All this takes time and needs to be done in advance. I’ve found that the sorts of places I’m looking to stay in are often in demand from contract workers during the week, something I hadn’t anticipated.

This, in turn, means needing to commit in advance. Whilst medium term weather forecasts can help in allowing me to know what I’m in for, they tend to be as reliable as a politician. However, the heatwave we’ve been having recently seems to have provided a more reliable indicator from Mother Nature. As such, I’ve decided on this leg to commit to shorter legs. At least that way I won’t over-do it, something to take into account when on my own and have somewhere I have to get to.

Once the practicalities are sorted, the research begins. I try to find out what I can about the places I’m passing through in advance. This helps to direct me towards places of interest and to make sure I don’t miss anything. Results from the research might be tangible – a specific thing to see – or intangible, a sense of a place, or an interesting fact or statistic.

 

 

Reassessment

My previous planning had suggested that Newport Pagnell would represent the half way point of my walk. I’ve reassessed this and reckon I’m probably now nearer to 60% of the way through. Indeed, by the end of this fourth leg I’ll be getting close to the end. This seems incredible, even though there’s still a way to go yet.

There’s no getting away from it though, there’s the sense of an ending to the project, or at least the actual walking side of it. I feel a bit conflicted about this. On the one hand there’s a sense of challenge met, on the other, there will be some grieving. The whole exercise has been fantastic fun, as well as stimulating.

The walking and the people I have met along the way has gone better than I’d anticipated. That said, when I set out I had hoped for a little more connection with third parties, for example people ‘finding me’ on the internet or through my publicity efforts. While there’s been a bit of this, it would have been nice to have more. It’s possible that I should have left more time for momentum to gather, but countering this has been a need within me to keep the momentum going on the walk itself, and to get it completed within the summer. This, in turn, is driven by the demands of the book and when I want it to be ready by. More on this in a moment.

 

Diagonal Walking – The Book

A key part of the Diagonal Walking project has been the writing and publishing of a book – a travelogue. I want this to be available around the proposed Brexit date of the end of March 2019. Diagonal Walking is not about Brexit, but there is a link to it. It’s my guess that it will act as a spur to contemplation about where we as a nation, and I hope my book will contribute to this.

As anyone who’s ever had contact with the publishing world will tell you, it isn’t exactly dynamic. It can take a year from signing a contract to seeing a book in print. Before then, you have to get the contract, which these days invariably means getting the attention of an agent. Neither agents nor publishers can be engaged without a completed manuscript, unless you’re a celebrity or established author, so you can see the dilemma.

Following the ‘traditional’ publishing route would involve a journey at least twice as long as the project itself, with no guarantee of success and the near certainty of the book now being available until 2020 at the very earliest. It’s not encouraging. For this reason, going down the self-publishing route is becoming more and more attractive. I also happen to think that from a marketing point of view, the book’s premise has enough of a sense of intrigue to be attractive to the organisers of talks, journalists and other media. I am confident enough in my own abilities in this field – to ‘sell myself’ – that my current mindset is this is the way I’ll go. I will approach more traditional publishers (there are three or four obvious candidates), but more in hope than expectation.

 

The Numbers

Instagram Page

An integral part of Diagonal Walking was to get others to ‘Walk With Me’ virtually. I’ve had some success here. The most notable areas are in podcasting, where I’ve had about 500 downloads so far, and with Instagram, where I have around 800 followers at the time of writing. There’s a fair bit of coming and going here too, but I’m monitoring it and the general trajectory is upwards – I want genuinely interested followers, not people playing games. Reaching 1,000 followers here now seems very achievable, and I’d have taken this at the beginning. Twitter is interesting, with a steady flow of new followers, but these tend to be replacing my ‘temporary friends’ I gained through the competition I did with ‘Stay in a Pub’.

In terms of the walk itself, as I say on my ‘How I am Doing’ page, I reckon I’ve completed just under 250 miles and over half a million steps. I might not make a million steps, but it’s a good marketing angle! For those interested in the book, which I’ve been writing as I go, I’m now up to around 50,000 words, which is probably more than half.

There’s much more to come, so stay tuned and keep diagonal!

 

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Aiming For Middle England

I’m back after a short break away from Diagonal Walking, busy planning the next stage. As promised in my last blog, I’m going to use this opportunity to allow you to ‘get inside my head’ a bit. At the moment my main preoccupation is around planning the next stage, which is a long one, rather than the actual writing. I’ll explain why there’s not so much on this later. By way of compensation for those interested in the writing process, I’ve included some initial thoughts on publishing. Also, for those who want to know, an update on progress of the various social media channels.

 

The Route

The next stretch of the walk takes me out of Staffordshire. This is a big deal, see the Surviving Staffordshire video if you don’t understand why. Yes, within a day I’ll be walking into Warwickshire. After that I’ll be more or less following the Warwicks/Leicestershire border. Incidentally, this or more or less congruent with the A5, of the Roman Watling Street. It’s curiously pleasingly that the Romans built their road on a diagonal line passing through the centre of the country!

From there, my route dives into the centre of Northamptonshire, and the county town, and then into the top of Buckinghamshire. Technically, it passes into the unitary authority of Milton Keynes, but I’ll ignore that for now. Places people might recognise include Atherstone, Hinckley and Watford – but not that one. The Watford I’ll be going through is the one better known through its service station Watford Gap. When people talk of ‘north of Watford’ it’s here they’re referring to, rather than Watford, Herts. Not a lot of people know that.

 

 

Landmarks

There are three significant landmarks on this leg, one geographical and the other two more personal. The geographical one is that I’ll be passing through the centre of England. As such, I will truly be in Middle England. As an earlier blog has outlined, this is on private land outside Fenny Drayton, near Atherstone. This is a big deal, as you can imagine. I’ve tried to get in touch with the farmer who owns the field it’s in, but no luck yet. I haven’t given up though. I’ve also tried to whip up some interest from the body responsible for tourism in Leicestershire, but also nothing so far. Disappointing.

The first personal milestone is that, all being well, I’ll also reach my own half way point by the end of the walk. Due to the shape of the country there’s more walking after Fenny Drayton than there is before the centre. As the How I’m Doing page shows, I’ve currently done nearly 300,000 steps, and I reckon I’ll be on more or less half a million by the end of this stretch, having walked around 250 miles.

The other personal milestone is I’ll be close to Milton Keynes. That may sound an odd thing to say, but Milton Keynes holds a pivotal part in my life story. It was here, over 30 years ago, that I helped build a house for an exhibition of energy efficient buildings. Ours was supposed to champion a self-build system, and we built the house over a series of weekends with architectural students providing the labour. The house is still standing, and I’ve tracked down the current owners and they’ve agreed to meet with me. This house is as old as my marriage – I had just met my wife to be when the project was, quite literally, getting off the ground. It will be interesting to see if it has lasted as well.

 

 

Practicalities

I’ve been spending some time planning the actual route, and it’s a bit tricky. Although it’s not as rural as the run through Staffordshire, places to stay remain few and far between. This has meant having to set quite long targets for each day. This decision has involved a trade-off between having somewhere to stay actually on the route, as tended to be the way on the first leg, and taking a wider brief and being prepared to travel, as was more the case on the second leg.

I’ve gone for the former. Even though I had the option on a car, the time wasted moving it around is time I’d rather spend walking. On average, I’ve ended up setting myself targets of around fourteen miles a day. This is more than I’d like, especially given the fact that having no car means carrying everything in a rucksack. This doesn’t daunt me too much – I have done these distances already, but the problem is I hadn’t planned for them. When I’ve done these sorts of distances earlier, it’s normally because something’s gone wrong. In other words, I’ve not left a lot of wriggle room. If the footpaths in the next counties are as bad as Staffordshire’s, I’m in trouble.

On the subject of the rucksack, I’m determined to make it lighter this time. As a large part of the avoidable weight is clothing, I’m going to pack light in that department. Don’t worry though, I’ve arranged to stay at an AirBnB half way round and to use their washing machine. For those that are wondering, I tend to use a combination of homestays, AirBnBs and cheap hotels. I am to spend no more than £50 a night on accommodation, sometimes its more, sometimes less.

 

 

Mixed Emotions

This leg is going to be as long as the first one, but with a vital difference. This time, there’s less of the excitement that came with the whole project starting off. As such, there’s more of a sense of the mundane, no, not mundane, but routine. I remember having this feeling when I undertook the canal trek for Walking on Water, and I suspect it’ll pass. That, plus the distances, plus the variations in the weather forecasts for the week ahead, all add up to a sense of challenge and some trepidation. Still, challenge was part of what I signed up for so here I go!

 

 

Walk With Me – Physically

As anyone reading these blogs will know, the concept of Walk With Meis integral to Diagonal Walking. Whilst I continue to have a great relationship with Stay In A Pub, we have yet to secure anything with one of their pubs. The idea was for me to give a talk on a weekday to boost trade, or to review their accommodation, but none have taken the bait so far. Hopefully, this will come in time. What will be, will be.

I have managed to secure two people to walk with me in person for one of the days, which is great. I have also got a good response from local community websites, and there’s still time for someone to come forward for other days. Response from more traditional media has been sluggish, although it’s not always possible to know you’ve been featured until you get a response from someone who’s read a piece. I did manage to get this piece in Waterways World, the leading canal magazine, which I was quite pleased with.

 

Walk With Me – Virtually

Stay In A Pub organised a competition which required people to follow Diagonal Walking on Twitter, and this resulted in a couple of hundred new followers. Most of these have stayed, and I’ve since built on this number to get to over 500. Instagram continues to be the best social media outlet for me. Even though I’ve had little new to post in the hiatus between legs, followers here are coming up to 600. In both cases, followers were half these total sat the start of the last leg. I sense some traction here now, especially with Instagram.

The podcasts are steady if unspectacular. I’ve had over 250 downloads so far, but the frustrating thing is not having any idea who these people are! Facebook remains much the same, gaining a fresh follower every now and then, and the YouTube videos are a useful backup. Out of interest, I’ve also asked my website designer to find out how many hits I’m getting on the website. I’ll amend this blog if I get this.

 

 

Writing

I mentioned the writing at the start. This is a frustrating area as I cannot do much actual tapping away at a keyboard without fresh material. Stuff keeps popping into my head – thoughts, reflections, ideas – and of course I capture these as notes, but I don’t want to ‘pre-write’ the book. I want it to be real, a true reflection of the experience. At the same time, once the antennae are active, it’s surprising how many things crop up that might be relevant to the book. The recent BBC exercise in defining ‘Englishness’ being a good example.

 

 

Planning for Publishing

I’ve begun to think about possible publishers. I recently completed a novel and have been trying to get agents interested in it, as this seems to be the only route into fiction publishers. The experience hasn’t been heartening, it’s a very tough world to break in to. That said, there’s a lot less publishers focussed on travel, so it should be possible to approach them direct. I have put together a list of likely suspects from the Writers and Artist’s Yearbook, but don’t want to start approaching them until the book is in a more complete state.

So, in conclusion, I’m beginning to consider my options here, but am not quite ready to act. I’d welcome any thoughts or advice people may be able to give. The one thing I can say for certain however, is the book will be published. Self-publishing is a common route for this kind of book, or I may focus on a combination of e-publishing and print on demand. This would reduce upfront cost, whilst still making it possible to satisfy both those happy with their Kindles and those who like a physical book. More on all this as it happens.

 

That’s about all for this update. I hope you’ve found it interesting getting inside my head and not too scary!

There’s much more to come, so stay tuned and keep diagonal!

 

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Actually walking

First Leg Over

There comes a time when you have to break your duck, lose your virginity, get the first one over with. So it was with the first leg of my diagonal walk. In this blog I aim to share some of the emotions and practicalities involved with finally getting on the road. Of actually walking at last, as well as its aftermath.

 

 

Actually Walking

 

Let’s start with how it felt to be actually walking. I’d planned for ten plus miles a day, with the first day slightly shorter. Best laid plans and all that. Around three miles were added to the first day to find the start point! On other days there was the disappointment of finding my bed for the night was still a couple of miles off. Take it from me, that’s not something you need after a dozen or so miles. Still, it was all learning for next time. I only count actual miles and steps on the walk in the ‘How Am I Doing’ section by the way. I’m usually doing much more than that in total over the day.

 

Another learning was what may appear to be ten miles on the map was rarely ten miles in reality. Hills and diversions all add to the total. Equally, I learned that the rucksack was heavy, although goodness knew why. I thought I’d packed light. On the other hand, it didn’t really trouble me once it was on my back, it was more the getting it on and off. I think it’ll be alright.

 

There’s no doubt my feet took a battering. I’d employed a two pairs of socks strategy, which I find usually does the trick, but not this time. Blister city. In the end I bought some special two layered socks in Liverpool, and these seem to act as a shock absorber, making the rest of the walk do-able. I was also expecting to feel more creaky the day after a long stretch and it was a surprise this wasn’t the case. Sure, the first mile or two required an extra push, as did the last mile or two, but I soon got into a rhythm. Maybe all the training actually paid off?

 

 

Time

 

I usually tried to get on the road by nine or half nine. In theory, ten to twelve miles walking at three plus mph would mean, with a couple of stops, getting to my destination early afternoon. Again, so much for the theory. In reality, time tended to get gobbled up in the taking of notes, and in meeting my (self-imposed) social media obligations. Taking pictures, posting them with hashtags, thinking of and noting podcast ideas, and filming sequences (these often need more than one take, believe it or not), all take time. I now plan on around two mph.

 

In reality, I tended to get to my room for the night by late afternoon – around five. It was then that the fun began. Updating the social media, sorting out clothes, showering and tending to the feet, all took time. Then I had to find somewhere to eat. All this before readying myself for the next day, checking the route, making sure I had the right maps, ready for that none am start. Time, time, time.

 

 

Partnering Up

 

From the start, I’ve wanted to make the Diagonal Walking project a collaborative exercise. I also wanted to get the first leg done so I had something to show to potential partners. I understand that for many there’s a huge gap between theory and practice. Of ‘getting Diagonal Walking. This has seen some success. I have received some press coverage (a couple of local newspapers and a national Waterways Magazine). I’ve also had an invitation to work with the StayInAPub initiative, funded by Cask Marque and Visit England, including a piece on their News page. This is a £1.2million initiative to promote walking trails and getting people to stay in pubs. Watch this space for updates on this, but I’m excited by it.

 

Having completed the first leg, I also felt more confident approaching national media, including newspapers and walking and outdoors magazines. This has already born fruit with the magazine TGO (The Great Outdoors) wanting to do a piece and an interview.

 

 

Walk With Me

 

I have also had my first Walk With Me companion, albeit only for a few yards as he is wheelchair bound. However, the next leg will see more of this. As for the virtual side of things, there is movement here too.

 

The Twitter account has seen around a 40% increase in followers since the start of the first leg and I’m starting to attract Facebook followers from outside the immediate friends and family circle, which is satisfying. The number of podcast downloads in April was double that in March, and I’m now well past the 100 mark here. It would be good to get into the high hundreds and maybe even thousands on at least one of the accounts.

 

Instagram looks like the favourite. This has seen a 50% increase in followers since the start of the first leg, but I did suffer a brief setback here. In an effort to ‘cull’ people I’d followed and hadn’t followed back, plus the various obviously non-sincere accounts (I’ll just say the word ‘actresses’), I blew a fuse in Instagram’s algorithm. It wouldn’t let me follow people back, or add fresh follows. Having Goggled the problem, it seems too much following and unfollowing makes you look like a bot, so they’d frozen the account. I felt like a child who’d been put on the naughty step. In the end it resolved itself overnight, thank goodness!

 

 

Actually Writing

 

I started this blog with ‘Actually Walking’, and will now turn to ‘Actually Writing’. One of the main drivers for the project, other than doing it for its own sake, is to write a book about my experiences. Writing up my notes and creating a voice for the book has taken a good three to four days of my time since ending the first leg. But boy, what notes! The value of writing things down as I go, of having ready-baked finely parsed sentences, has proved to be essential. I’ve written around 15,000 words so far, which considering I reckon I’ve done 15-20% of the walk is probably about right, especially considering this is only a first draft.

 

 

Planning the Next Leg

 

The first leg has also shown the importance of good planning. So, nothing for it but to invest the same time in the next stage so it can be as successful as the first. This involves not only planning the route, but also researching places I should go and interesting details about where I will be walking.

 

The next leg is largely rural, and away from water, in contrast to the first. This will mean a lot more countryside walking and a lot less ‘civilisation’. As I’ve mentioned, I will have more partners walking with me on this leg, plus I am employing some back up in the form of my wife. She will have a car to get me to and from a central location, a cottage we’ve rented for four nights. This will give me more freedom to get as far as I can each day, rather than having a specific target. The route on the next leg will take me from Alsager, through Stoke and points south east, through Meir Health and Yoxall, with an ambitious target of reaching the National Arboretum at Alrewas, or as near to there as possible.

 

 

I hope you’ve found this update on progress blog interesting. There will be more to come! In the meantime, keep diagonal!

 

 

 

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Ever Wondered What’s Involved In Writing A Book?

There’s nothing I like better than writing a book, or reading one for that matter. Over the last twenty years I’ve written over twenty books and enjoyed some modest success. It’s true that none of my books have troubled the Sunday Times Bestsellers, but I have occasionally hit the upper echelons of different Amazon categories. Over that time, I’ve made a modest income, dabbled in traditional publishing with different publishers, done some self-publishing and got involved in e-publishing. So, while I may be a journeyman, I hope I have something to say to anyone who’s ever wondered what’s involved in writing a book.

 

 

If It Ain’t Broke …

 

If I’ve learned one thing about the publishing world it is that it likes its traditions. Its approach to how it goes about things can be summed up as ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. The biggest hurdle any aspiring author will have to face is breaking into that fixed world. If you’re an unknown, you are very likely to stay an unknown.

 

Put simply, and it’s not an unreasonable position, why should a publisher take a chance on you? The publishing world isn’t alone in protecting its corner. However, as similar industries have found, they are vulnerable to attack from the democratising power of the internet.

 

 

Diagonal Walking: A 21stCentury approach to writing a book

 

That’s why, when considering my next writing project, I decided to take a 21stcentury approach. The project is a travel book, documenting a long distance walk following a diagonal line drawn NW to SE through the centre of England. I could have just done the walk, written the book and then pitched it to publishers. In fact, not to publishers, but to literary agents. Publishers very rarely respond to direct approaches, even if you have written twenty books.

 

Instead, I’ve decided to get the general public involved. If you’ve browsed this site you will have got it by now. I want to be a sort of authorial pied piper, gathering a virtual cloud of followers. These can be on social media, or through podcasts, blogs and videos. I want to harness the power of the internet to build a potential audience for my book. The aim is to rebalance some of the power of decision making towards the author. When the walk is finished and the book is written I want to have a say in how it reaches its market.

 

 

Follow and Learn

 

With Diagonal Walking experiment I’m going to open up the processes of planning, generating material, writing, editing, proofing and publishing. Using the various outlets I have created, I am inviting people to follow every step, and learn from my experience. I will share the ups and the downs of the process in real time. At the same time, I will ask for ideas and help. I want to make this book a communal effort.

 

 

I’m Learning Already

 

I’ve learned a lot already, and the project’s only been going three months! I’ve learned technical skills such as how to build a website and optimise its search engine attractiveness. I’ve learned how to make a video and get it on YouTube. I’ve learned how to record and publish podcasts. But I’ve learned more than that. I’ve learned patience, especially when you delegate tasks to others. After all, this is your baby not theirs, you can’t expect them to share your urgency.

 

Perhaps most significantly, I’ve learned to follow an idea. Truth time. When I started with Diagonal Walking I was only thinking about getting others to follow the walk. As time has gone on, I’ve appreciated the potential the project offers to shine some light upon what, for most, certainly for anyone thinking about writing a book, is a place of very dark secrets.

 

 

Follow Me!

 

So, follow me along the journey. Not just the physical journey but the whole journey of writing the book. I will keep on posting regular updates even when the walk is finished, sharing the pleasures and agonies of the whole writing process. Planning and executing the walk is the easy bit. The real slog starts with the rising, editing, proofing and publishing.  There’s still a long way to go, I haven’t even started the walk yet!

 

Happy writing! Diagonal or otherwise.

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Walking With Me

Walking with me in person is an important part of Diagonal Walking, and I actively welcome requests to walk part of the route with me. This may be for a short stretch, or longer, or maybe just to meet up and share a flask of coffee (I don’t do tea).

 

Where and When

 

The map on the How I Am Doing page will show you where I have already been, and an idea of the direction I’m heading in and how far I’ve got. If you follow the updates, blogs and podcasts, you will have a good idea of when I expect to be walking. Broadly speaking though, the route follows a line that starts just above Liverpool, goes through Stoke, Milton Keynes, Luton, the east of London and Maidstone, before ending up at Dungeness. The walk started in April 2018, with the first leg ending in Alsager in Staffs, where I expect to pick up the route in early May. The aim is to end around the end of September.

 

Next Steps

 

See what I did there? The best way to organise things is to contact me either via the Connect tab on the menu, or direct by email.

 

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