Fin C Gray | Self-doubt is the enemy of the author

Self-doubt is the enemy of the author, and I confess to being plagued by it most of my adult life. Ever since I was a young boy, I felt I wanted to write a book. As a pre-teen, I couldn’t stop myself reading everything I could get my hands on. It was my perfect escape from a childhood that was far from perfect. Books gave me worlds and experiences that I never believed I’d ever be a part of but therein was a way to find joy and excitement. The more I read, the more I thought I would love to write too.


By the time I was twelve, I had written three short novels, all very derivative of the stories I was avidly consuming, all in longhand. Self-doubt wasn’t an issue in those days; the main problem was talent and lack of knowledge. By age 14, I was getting more ambitious and reading more adult-themed books, and I embarked on a dark horror novel set around a demonic possession instigated by the use of a Ouija board. This was short-lived when I discovered that the great William Peter Blatty had beaten me to it with The Exorcist. There began the first vestiges of self-doubt. I stopped writing, at least in the artistic sense at that point. I can’t remember if it was a conscious decision or just the result of the onset of puberty and burgeoning adulthood.


I loved English best of all at Secondary School and consistently got good grades for my composition work. I often think it would be great to be able to tap into that youthful outlook and enthusiasm, but alas, like much of the innocence of early life, these things are elusive and misty. After school, I took English and Philosophy as my degree subjects and fully intended to take a course in journalism after I graduated. Still, the temptation of high paying graduate schemes proved too much, and that plan fell by the wayside, and I drifted aimlessly into management schemes that failed to inspire or fulfil.


By the time I was married, a year or so after graduating, the idea for a science fiction fantasy novel began to percolate in my brain. Two kids later, the idea was still there, and I started the first few chapters of it in my mid-thirties. However, it never seemed good enough and that old enemy, self-doubt was taking its usual grip on me. My wife was very encouraging, and my two sons, who I read some of the early drafts to, were enthusiastic. Even so, it gathered dust and lay unfinished and unpolished and still has not seen the light of day, yet.


Fast forward to 2013, and what seems like many lifetimes later, I am now and for the last ten years, unhappily a widower, and my eldest son has drifted leaving me mystified as to his whereabouts. This becomes not only the catalyst for me to start writing again but ultimately seeds the story of mine that will eventually become my first published novel. At that point, I did a one-year course with the Open University in Creative writing. This helped me to learn to share my work and accept critical feedback. It was marvellous to see the spectre of doubt dissipate as a new enthusiasm for writing began to regrow. It was during that period I had my first short story, a tale set in Manhattan, published in a respected weekly publication in New York.


I was so encouraged by this success, that I decided to embark on a Creative Writing Masters Degree at Manchester Metropolitan University. What appealed to me about this route was the fact that not only was one required to complete a fully-fledged novel to graduate but also that they had proven alumni of successfully published authors. I liked that this degree would force me to commit to a story and complete it. I graduated with Merit in 2017, and the result was Duplicity.


Duplicity remained unpublished until late 2019, and this was because I decided to effect some plot changes and ensure it was professionally proofread and critiqued before I sent it off to publishers. After this, I scoured the Artists and Writers yearbook for 2018 and identified the publishers who had published books in my genre and were accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Unfortunately, new authors find themselves in a chicken and egg situation where they cannot find an agent without a publisher or a published work under their belt, and mainly they cannot find a publisher without an agent. That’s why it’s essential to find publishers, like Olympia, who will accept unsolicited submissions. I wanted to avoid the self-publication route. I am in the rare, privileged position to have had three firm publication contact offers with no rejection letters to contend with. Unless, of course, you consider the no replies from publishers as rejections. I, of course, settled with Olympia as my publishers.


I wasn’t prepared for the length of time that the publication process takes but in retrospect this was impatience born of naivety. Now that Duplicity has been published, I fully appreciate the process and effort that is required to get a professional edition in the public domain. There are few better experiences than opening that box that holds the first copies of the books you have striven so hard to get to that point. The feel, the smell, the sight of the book in your hands is a rare and special thing. I am grateful to Olympia for the time and care they took in producing a work of such high standards for my first published novel.



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06 Feb 2020