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PHILIP MCCLENNAN


THE BOOK JOURNEY, November 15, 2015



First things first, I am a pretty normal bloke. I drink too much beer, watch far too much football and work an ordinary job in the riveting world of Insurance. I didn’t see myself as being a writer growing up; it was never my ambition. I did write some Sonic the Hedgehog comics when I was small, but that was more the ramblings of a child rather than any creative genius on my part. Like many kids, I had wild dreams. I wanted to be an astronaut at first, and then a footballer. Neither was a viable nor realistic dream. On a football pitch I am like an ice skater trying to skate without the skates, and as for being an astronaut…well there’re most likely aliens in space and I don’t think they and I would get along.


The first time I think I had an interest in anything story based was discovering the computer game Final Fantasy VII, a role-playing game for the PlayStation computer console. The game was ahead of its time in terms of in-depth storytelling and it was the first computer game I ever became emotionally invested in. There and then I decided I’d like to make films one day. Even as a youngster I knew that was a pipe dream, something that would most likely never happen, but still, a boy can dream.


After some very uneventful years plodding along through high school and also college, in which I did Engineering, an industry I have no interest in whatsoever, (by the way, I have nothing against people who work in Engineering, it’s just something that wasn’t for me) I decided to do what everyone is meant to do, get a proper job.


So there I went, jumping from job to job. From telesales, to call centres, to banks, I earned my way in life, earning cold hard cash for the first time. I didn’t earn a lot, but it paid the bills so what did I care? Besides, I still had money to drink beer and watch football! Life was good. Then a curious thing happened…I started to get bored. This wasn’t unusual, all my co-workers were bored, and all my friends were bored too. A lot of people are not stimulated or excited when working. They work to make ends meet, to pay the bills, that’s what most people do.


One day, working in one such job, I met a girl. She was an odd one. What struck me about this particular girl was that she was the first person I’d ever met that had been to University. I’d never even contemplated going to University before but the more she talked about her time there, the more I became curious. The lady was very smart, so University would make me smarter, that would be ok…and then there was the student partying she spoke so fondly of. Suddenly, I became self-aware…beer, women, football, not having to be in full time employment…these were the things all people wanted. It should come as no surprise to anyone what I did next.


You guessed it! I enrolled into University. I wanted a better job with more pay, so I began a Business degree; besides, business people always make money right? It didn’t take long before the inevitable happened…I became bored again. That’s the problem doing something you’re not passionate about, if your heart isn’t truly in it, you become disillusioned easily and quit. That’s what I did, after only three short months in University…I quit. I resumed my old job in a bank and began to earn cold hard cash again, however, this time it just wasn’t the same. Now I felt like a failure.


Somewhere along the line, I cannot remember clearly when, or how, something ignited my creative juices. After my grand plan of becoming a successful businessman failed, I decided I’d try and do something I had an actual interest in. I always had ideas for films, always, from a very young age. However, I didn’t know how to write a screenplay. Maybe I should do a filmmaking degree and find out?


Now, I still had another nine months to pass before I could re-apply for University again, so I decided to pass the time by jotting down ideas. I even began to compose a story. I didn’t know how to write a script, so I started to write the story down on my computer. It was about a man who is completely content in life until one day, a fortune teller reveals that something terrible lays in his future. Then he becomes consumed with finding out what is going to happen and it changes his life forever. The idea was that I would type the whole thing up onto my computer and convert it into a film script once I learned how. Then, I would direct the whole project and make it into a film…simple. If only life was that simple.


Once I began my degree in film, I quickly realised that being a film director was not something I was destined for. Camera work, and what shots to use for a scene, whilst interesting to research, didn’t stimulate me enough creatively to keep me satisfied. I loved the script writing modules, anything in which you create the actual story from its origin, that is where I am in my element.


I graduated from University and a bunch of my student buddies and I decided to move in together. That’s the thing about being surrounded by people with similar interests, it keeps you motivated. I cannot tell you how many times people rolled their eyes when I told them I wanted to be a writer. It’s easy to become disillusioned and just follow the crowd. So in our house, which at times resembled a squat or crack den, my friends and myself let our creative juices flow.


I finished a feature film script, and although satisfied, I always found myself wanting to write more. The thing I found with scripts was that you’re limited in what you can write down on a page. I still want to write and enjoy scripts…but more and more, I found myself going back to writing longer stories, with more detail and description.


The idea of writing a purely Fantasy story had always appealed to me. Fantasy is an escape from the real world, a place where any dream can be realised. Fantasy really does bring out the child in me I think. However, a lot of people I grew up with didn’t like Fantasy, so I’d set my heart on an Action based novel. Then I watched The Lord Of The Rings, the film adaption of the novel by J. R.R. Tolkien, whilst at the same time reading A Game Of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. I quickly settled on a Fantasy/Action Novel…


So around three years ago I started the first draft of my novel, Clash Of Worlds. I always like to think of it as a mixture of James Bond and The Lord Of The Rings. I like Action and I like Fantasy, so why not try to make a story that incorporates both?


The look you get from the average person when you say you want to write a book is normally a confused or sceptical look so I kept the project to myself, for the most part, besides from people within my inner circle. It has been a long hard road, and many times I have been hit in the head by that horrific thing all writers dread…writers block. It is not an uncommon thing for people who write creatively, which requires a great deal of patience and concentration (twos things I do not have in great abundance). Writers block does exactly what it suggests; it blocks your mind. You cannot think properly, the ideas do not flow, and you become frustrated and just feel like quitting.


How I dealt with this was to go to the gym and work out. I go the gym frequently, but not for the reason you might think. Yes, it improves you physically, but the reason I go and work out is because it clears my mind. Any stress built up during a day, I release in the gym and leave it behind when I depart. This enables me to carry on writing with a clear mind.


Another thing that really helped me whilst writing Clash Of Worlds was reading Stephen King’s Non-Fiction book, On Writing. I cannot stress how much this booked helped me. Stephen King is a horror genius, however, this book is his take on the art of writing itself. He brings a no-nonsense approach to writing and literally cuts out ‘the bullshit’ (his words not mine). He tells things how they are, and advises to ignore many of the so-called ‘experts’ and trust your own judgement when writing a story. I cannot recommend this book enough for anyone out there who is thinking about writing a novel


Ok, so after around nine months I finished the first draft of Clash Of Worlds, a terribly written, unbalanced piece of work. When my university lecturer first told me that writing consists of rewriting, editing and more rewriting, I didn’t believe him. Over two years of book editing later, he has firmly made a believer out of me.


So here I am, a finished novel, all ready to go. Some people have asked me how I managed to do it. The truth is…I don’t know! I just sat down every so often at my computer and started to write. Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t just make things up as I went along. I knew the beginning of the story and the end…but that’s it. The rest I wrote on the fly, just like I am doing now writing this blog. Other people ask me where do I get my ideas from? Again, the answer to this is…I don’t know! I do not consider myself a smart person. I am not a genius, far from it. I consider Doctors or Scientists to be geniuses; I simply type words up on my computer from time to time…that’s it.


I occasionally jot down ideas into the notepad on my iPhone as and when they pop into my head, but other than that I just sit down and write. That’s the best advice I can give to anyone who wants to write a novel or a short story. Come up with a basic idea, start writing and see what happens. That’s what I did!


It has been a long journey, and many times I almost gave up hope I’d ever finish the manuscript. That in itself is a victory for me. Whether or not Clash Of Worlds does well or flops horribly is irrelevant. The achievement of its completion is enough fulfilment for me. Hopefully, you will enjoy the story that has been concocted from the very strange place that is my mind. For those of you that do not end up enjoying it, I have some bad news for you…I’m writing a sequel. Apologies in advance!

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