Writing Blood and Bandages – fighting for life in the RAMC Field Ambulance 1940-46. Part three: “The book was off… indefinitely.”

Writing Blood and Bandages – fighting for life in the RAMC Field Ambulance 1940-46.  Part three: “The book was off… indefinitely.”

Welcome to part three of the story of writing Blood and Bandages, my first ever book. I’m sharing this journey with the book’s many fans, and to inspire other writers to have faith in their projects and carry on regardless. As this part reveals, some problems are foreseeable, others can pounce on you from nowhere.

This post first appeared in February 2017.


The story had to have a heart.

It also had to have a publisher. To achieve that, I needed to demonstrate that the book had:-
1.  a unique selling point, (USP)
2.  an engaging style,
3.  an audience,
4.  and a writer with knowledge of the publishing industry.

I knew the book had a USP. I was developing my writing style and the audience was comprised of those interested in World War Two.

What I didn’t have was knowledge of the publishing industry so it was back to school, again.  Luckily, I could call upon New Writing South, (NWS). NWS was, (and still is), an organisation which provides support, encouragement and training to writers in the south-east. I scoured the programme for events on publishing and found Writers at Large, a one day course on breaking into the industry. I made copious notes throughout the day and pitched the story in a group session. It was led by Andrew Marshall, who generously offered to read and feedback on the first chapter. I listened carefully to his advice and followed some of it.

It was three years before I attended another event, the NWS Publishing Industry Day. As usual, I filled several notebooks and tried to take comfort from the encouraging speeches. By then, I’d had several rejections from agents and publishers. “Lack of commercial appeal,” was usually cited. I suspected that that was kind because they all said yes to the pitch, but no to the sample chapters. Hence, it was with great interest that I listened to The Literary Consultancy‘s presentation on manuscript assessments. It was a service whereby one of their experienced readers would provide a detailed analysis of what was and wasn’t working in a book. That’s what I required. For the umpteenth time, I re-wrote the book, had it proofread and sent it off.

It was given to Karl French, a writer, editor and journalist who had worked for publishing houses like Bloomsbury and national newspapers such as the Guardian and Financial Times. Mr French produced a detailed 14-page report.

Overall, it was a terrifically encouraging assessment but there was a big but. “This isn’t , as yet, a book whose promise is fully realised,” he said.

To reach its potential I would need to undertake more interviews with Bill, re-structure the book, beef up some sections with more context and edit others so the story was more vivid and powerful. These were monumental changes. “Perhaps that is simply too daunting or not something that you are interested in committing to,” he opined. Once again, I was being asked whether I would fully commit to the book.

This time there was no room for fudging.  I pulled my shoulders back, took a deep breath and chose the book.

William was happy to re-start the interviews and I recommenced my research.

We were making good progress when, just before his 100th birthday, William and I had a serious falling out. Hurtful and unfounded accusations were made.  My response was swift. I downed tools. The book was off, indefinitely.

4 Responses to Writing Blood and Bandages – fighting for life in the RAMC Field Ambulance 1940-46. Part three: “The book was off… indefinitely.”

    • Hi Ian,
      I think the big lesson I learned was to develop the stamina and passion to keep going. You have to love your subject because you’re going to be wedded to it for quite a while.
      Keep writing and thinking.
      Take care

  1. Another inspiration. I have been thinking about writing a book as well. As you know, I’m kind of, sort of a Horsa glider fan. But I have not seen any books really regarding the technical side of it as related to design, production, testing, etc. . . . I have no desire to go into the weeds on operations because that’s been done already.

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