The first thing I had to do was to write a synopsis of the story. This started with a simple idea. In my a case, a man’s journey from a gladiator to a life of spiritual meaning.
Since my character actually existed as a historical figure in the 3rd Century Roman Empire, the next step was to find out everything I could about him. This gave me an insight into what type of person he was, what trials he had faced and how his character developed along the way.
Then I had to find out what was going on in the in the century before the onset of Christianity. I needed to establish sentiments towards vanquished peoples and attitudes to religious minorities etc. I also needed to discover more about the aspirations of the general population and their predisposition towards the ruling classes.
Most importantly, I knew little of the life of a Gladiator. For example, how did you become one? Where did they live? What was their diet? And what were the chances of survival? All of this required a lot of research.
A tale slowly started to develop in my mind together with a number of subplots, which would provide the momentum required to drive the novel.
The next thing was to ensure that I had a fast moving first chapter. This had to give an insight into the main character, what his motivation was and where his life would take him. There needed to be sufficient tension early on so as to keep hold of the reader’s interest.
I discovered that this was best achieved with the use of brief chapters, of say 2500/3000 words.
I was told by my editor that my main priority should be to get the story down and not to be overly concerned about writing the perfect page. This could be done at a later stage!
It was good advice, because it gives a panoramic view of the novel, enabling you see your characters and their actions in a completely different light, rather than looking at an isolated incident. It’s then possible to mold the characters and the way you want them to be perceived through various narrative threads.
Reviewing the last piece of work can be useful in helping get into the swing for writing the next day. The important thing for me was to treat this as a tool rather than an end in it self.
Committing myself whole-heartedly to the project, I set myself a target of writing 500 words a day. I had envisaged a novel of around 250 pages and that equated to around 70,000 words! I finished the first draft in twelve months, which then went off to the publisher.
After a couple of rewrites, Shimon was finally published in March of this year.