How I wrote ‘It’s a hill, get over it’

So, if you read the previous blog posting about why I wrote the book, you will realise it was just a tease at the end, as it obviously got accepted by some publisher or other. However, it has to be said that I was fully expecting a rejection over that first application, and then a long round of further rejections. But to my huge surprise the commissioning editor at Sandstone Press said “we are interested and my concern would be with the narrowness of the subject. I would hope to see it extended into more general fell running, its history, characters and events.” Even then it was not an acceptance. Swallowing any pride I might have had, I thought about it and decided to re-write the synopsis to encompass this change and re-submitted it to them. The response this time was “Thank you for such a thoughtful and positive response to my comments. Sandstone Press would indeed be interested in this book. Do it well and I am very confident that we will accept it.” So, positive but still no deal. With hope in my heart, and still no idea if I could deliver, I set out on researching the revised manuscript on 13 June 2011. In December 2012 the first draft of the manuscript went to the publisher, and was reviewed anonymously by their ‘reader’. Three days before Christmas I received an acceptance email (with a list of changes in style, emphasis, etc from the review) and a draft contract. The rest as they say is history. It has taken another 9 months to finish the text, make the changes, source the photos, get copyright approvals, edit, proof-read and agree all the peripheral stuff (cover design, index, etc). It is coming out in hardback and Kindle editions.

Over two years of researching and writing then, all in my spare time. The work flow turned out to much more random than I expected. Having revised the synopsis I now had a new set of chapters to work to. Initially I started working on the chapters that I had good leads to ideas and material for. On a family holiday in summer of 2011 I spent some very fruitful time in the public library in Kendal searching for secondary sources. I had now compiled an ever increasing list of books, articles, leads, etc to follow-up. A request to the FRA to be granted access to the archive of Fellrunner magazines fell on stony ground. A series of email exchanges included the statement that “the prospect of yet another book about fell running is not welcomed and the FRA Committee will not wish to co-operate in providing assistance. ‘Feet In The Clouds’ did no favours to the sport.” This remarkable rebuff did not stop me. Fortunately friends, and friends of friends, managed to supplement the copies of the magazine that I had in my possession, and research and writing continued apace.  Networking with others in and around the sport produced many leads and connections. I was deliberately looking for a different pitch to both Studmarks on the summits, and Feet in the Clouds (both of which I acknowledge as trail blazers) so left them on my shelf and resisted referring to them, unless to check facts. My first saved draft manuscript file is dated December 2011 and it ran to 28,000 words (roughly a quarter of the end result). By now I was expanding my research and writing some of the more difficult chapters. As well as exploring more of Kendal’s excellent library resources, I was checking obscure book sources at the British Library and also press articles at the Newspaper Library (conveniently just down the road from where I work).

I soon decided that I wanted some personal perspectives as counterpoints to the historical stuff. Serendipitous openings gave me the opportunity to secure interviews with some significant players in the sport. My idea was to try to get to talk with a spread of runners that matched the themes of the book, and this all started falling in to place. By now I realised I was searching for my own ‘style’ of writing. So, it was time to show someone else and get some feedback. A first critical friend gave me some excellent feedback on structure and emphasis, and pointed out some of my most blatant writing quirks (which obviously weren’t SO blatant to me). A tidy, a re-shuffle and on I went. Later my second critical friend viewed the working manuscript and advised that their might well be more of ‘me’ to bring to the piece. Overcoming a reluctance to expose my modest fell running achievements to scrutiny I took this point on board. I think the end result is better for it, being a three-stranded story – the history of the sport, inter-weaved with reflections from some of the major players, and interspersed with some experiences of mine. As part of the process of content review and checking all the interviewees were sent the sections about themselves and corrected these where necessary. Sarah Rowell corrected me on a number of matters as part of her review, prior to agreeing to endorse the book. Various other correspondents also commented in places where they had expertise. It is with great sadness that I particularly acknowledge help in that way from John Blair-Fish – who passed away this last week. I had never met him, but he was very patient in pointing me in the right direction over certain matters in the early days of the FRA, particularly the Scottish aspects. So, thanks to all those who have helped me reach the point where the book is to be published in less than a week, and is available to order. Any errors that remain are mine, and mine alone ……. Now for that awful anticipation of the first reviews.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning
The end is where we start from

T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding


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