What It Felt Like To Write My First Words

To Write My First Words

To Write My First Words

I had been on a very long journey to work out what I was supposed to be doing with my life and ultimately ended up, right back at the start.

I still relive the emotions of experiencing the penny dropping. It dropped like a great clanger, as subtle as a brick in the end, almost landing on my foot in protest of having taken so long to get there. I had found what I’d been searching for my whole life, but still had to wait to test my theory. I had been on a very long journey, to work out what I was supposed to be doing with my life and ultimately ended up, right back at the start. English, this was my answer. If only you could have seen my face when I realised that my future lay in writing. Everyone else could see it. It was glaringly obvious to them. My friends and colleagues had always offered great praise for my writing, which when I thought about it, they had done my whole career. I’d been writing all my life, I’d just written in a business sense rather than creatively. I had so many prompts throughout my life, but had failed to realise the common thread. So there I was, right back at the A-Level English stand, putting my name down for a subject I wasn’t even all that bothered about taking. It was suddenly obvious to me too. What a fool I was, if only … If only I had embraced the subject right back at the start, instead of turning away from it. What a lot of wasted time, but I’m not a negative person. I sit here writing this blog and know deep down that writing came into my life at just the right time. I still believe that everything happens for a reason and when it’s supposed to. All the dots simply have to line up.

Having to wait for the right time to try writing again, almost drove me insane. The burst of excitement within me, became all the more concentrated for waiting, but things just kept getting in the way. It finally found its opportunity one bright, sunny August day in 2010. Everything fell into place that day, my son was out playing football and my daughter was hitting the books for her GCSE exams, so I borrowed her laptop and headed down the garden. I can still feel the butterflies today. I was so nervous. It was like holding a winning lottery ticket on a windy day. One false move and the whole thing could be a disaster, but I opened a word document and began typing anyway.

When I think back to that moment, which seems an age ago now, I think of how strong the urge to write was. To this day, I still don’t have an explanation for what made me wake up feeling so strongly that I should, but I’m really glad I did. I have always followed one firmly rooted belief, that is, “Go with your gut instinct.” Whatever that inner voice is telling you to do, can’t be that bad. I know when I ignore its advice, things always end up going badly, like the voice that tells you to clean your house, when you don’t have time. So you ignore it and surprise visitors turn up. That kind of thing.

When I took my daughter’s computer, I barely even knew how to switch it on, let alone how to use it. I’d never used a laptop before and remembered messing about with it at first. It wasn’t only because I didn’t know how to use it though, it was also about postponing the moment, because suddenly it had all become very real. The moment had arrived, the test was afoot, the moment I had waited for my whole life, but what if I was rubbish? What if after all the searching, I couldn’t write? That would mean only one thing, I had no discernable talent. I would have to settle down to the mundane and get on with it, because my search would have been in vain. So I fiddled with it until everything was set-up and I had no more excuses, so I sat there watching the ‘I’ bar flash at me.

The popular thought occurred to me, ‘you should stick to what you know’ and apply that to your writing. I thought about what I wanted to write, but nothing came like the first time I attempted. So I scratch my head and thought, “Just write an opening scene.” I looked around me at the blazing August sunshine and listened to the sounds around me then suddenly a single sound cut through the rest. I heard a police car speeding up the bypass in the bottom of the valley and was instantly transported back to a summer when I was a child. I hit the keys and wrote the opening to chapter 1 of Hidden.

I read it back to myself and was surprised to find that it didn’t sound too bad. I had written it so quickly, once I started, the words just flew across the page. I felt an air of relief wash over me. I knew I’d found it and I wasn’t rubbish. That strong urge had finally put me on the right path. The path I should have been on from the start.

My next quandary was what to write next. I had set a lovely scene, but here was the test was, what now? I didn’t have a story. I needed to see if I could create a story out of what I had, which wasn’t very much, in term of writing a book. So I went back to the head scratching again. I decided that I needed characters. I needed to make it easy for myself, so I stuck to what I knew. I’ve always worked with children, so I created two characters, Bronte and Riley. The only thing I knew in the beginning was that I wanted them to be best friends. In my head, I always imagined myself writing a horror story, because that had always been my favourite genre, but horror didn’t feel right, so I kept writing to see what came. I knew that I needed a piece of action and a hook by the end of the first chapter, so after putting my writing down and making tea, I came back to it and had the bones of a storyline, involving a dare.

That day, I wrote the first chapter of Hidden, which has remained mostly unchanged. I’ve never looked back since. Today, I have a much different story to the one I imagined writing. I’m writing in a completely different genre to what I thought I would be, but as I sat in my garden writing, I fell in love with my characters and wanted to see where they would take me. Today, three and a half years down the line, I am in the process of publishing that very same book. I have two more books at various stages of completion and already know that there will be at least another two books in the saga.

Bronte and Riley changed my life in a way I couldn’t ever imagine. I cannot begin to wonder where they will take me, but I know one thing for sure, I can’t wait for the adventure. So I buckle-up and wait for the ride of my life, as I continued on their journey through The Hidden Saga.

Serina Hartwell – Author of The Hidden Saga


Thank you for taking the time out to read my blog. Don’t forget to follow me and tell a friend. Why not leave me your thoughts or a good review? I have a new website available at – http://www.serinahartwell.com

Serina Hartwell – As A Child

Albert And Me

Albert And Me

What was Serina Hartwell like as a child? – Now there’s a question.

I grew up in a mill town, which I talk about in more detail in my page on mills, in the Hidden section of my websites serinahartwell.info and serinahartwell@blogspot.com. They were dotted around the place I lived, in fact, there were so many that you couldn’t go anywhere without coming across one on your journey. The street I lived in was like a little oasis in a sea of industrial buildings. It was my whole world as a child and my playground. Today I watch my own kids growing up and feel a sense of regret, because they never played out like I did as a child. Their childhoods were a lot different, simply because society changed. Despite my encouragement, things moved on. My low tech football and skipping rope could never compete with a piece of electronic gadgetry. As my children grew up, more and more of their toys included technology, taking them away from the fresh air, the rain and fields of fun.

I treasure my sheltered childhood. I experienced a freedom that doesn’t seem to exist anymore for inner city children. I was a child of great imagination, naturally, as you would expect of a writer. My childhood memories of school were of getting caught daydreaming constantly. Every school report had – ‘She has done well this year, but must not become complacent and she must not daydream in class.’ I have very mixed emotions about daydreaming, I must admit. My primary and middle school were so important to me. I loved going to school. I loved every minute of it. I thrived and worked as hard as I could, and even left my middle school with the Headmaster’s prize. A prize awarded to just one student out of the whole school. I still have it now. I was given an encyclopaedia for all my hard work. My downfall was when it came to long spiels, this was when I tended to daydream. The parent in me today shouts, ‘you should have concentrated more in school,’ but I don’t really regret it for a minute.

The mixed emotions I talked about earlier are simple. In order to be a writer, you have to have a great imagination, but to be a writer, you often find that your personality leads you to be a daydreamer. The problem I found was while the teacher was teaching me how to punctuate a sentence and use correct grammar, I had a tendency to switch off; this was where the daydreaming took over. Luckily, I found that the grammar worked its way in via osmosis, but because I was daydreaming in class, and my mind was absent from the lesson, freely wandering around my fantasy world, I didn’t pay as much attention to the finer detail of punctuation as I should have (the thing I was less interested in, because I was never going to use it again, right?). So when it came to writing my book, I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning. It’s taken a lot of work to self-teach and discipline myself in order to get my book out, which is the downside. I’m getting there slowly. I still make silly mistakes and can’t spell for love nor money, but three years of solid practice is bound to improve you eventually.

I was always surrounded by a solid set of friends, as a child. They were the best set of friends that anyone could ask for and I’m still in touch with most of them now, in some shape or form. I remember my brother and I playing out for hours and dad coming out to call us in. Of course we would always push the boundary as far as we could. He could never get us in on the first attempt. Gradually we found the middle ground with him. He was a fare man. The first call we treated like a warning for a request that was to follow. The second was the request that we chose to ignore, but we knew that by the third request, we had to go in. Any requests after that put dad in a bad mood for the rest of the evening. He knew this, and although he always put on a show for us, he always forgave us.

A number of my friends didn’t even live on the street. They came to visit their Grandparents. I remember some of my fondest memories coming from being allowed to play, when it rained, in Mark’s Grandmother’s garage. I don’t know to this day why it had a carpet down in there, maybe it was being stored, or perhaps she put it there for us to play on, but that carpet took us around the whole universe. It was a magic carpet flying over an arid desert, the inside of a spaceship, an island in the middle of an ocean, amongst many other things. About half a dozen kids, or more, all piled on that carpet that curled up at the edges with me and we had a whale of a time. To this day, I put a lot of my storytelling beginnings down to playing with my friends.

I remember that at the top of the street, there were a bunch of trees. They weren’t very tall, more shrub like than tree, but they had all grown into one another, leaving a hollow inside. Of course as children, we saw this as our den and it became another great source of fun and excitement, which I cherish to this day.

When you read Hidden, you will be able to read a lot about my childhood. When I wrote about Bronte and Riley, I drew upon these precious memories. Although Bronte’s story isn’t a like for like for my own, you do get a feel for what it was like for me growing up and the solid friendships I had with friends. I set the book in the place I grew up. It’s just unfortunate that the place has changed so much since I left many years ago, but its essence still lives on in my memories. I have tried to do it justice in my writing, to let a little bit of it live on, in my book.

I feature a tree in The Hidden Saga, called Nelson. Nelson is based on a tree that stood by the river at the top of the street where I lived as a child, although our tree didn’t have a name. We used to play around it, on the beck’s beach, as children. It marked the boundary of the limit of where we were allowed to play when we were small, because it was on the path that led up the side of the river to the waterfall and to the village beyond where the grand mill that my mother used to work at, stood. Of course as children, as you get older, you push those boundaries and play where you shouldn’t anyway and I have to admit that we didn’t do it as often as we probably could have done, but sorry mum and dad, we did. I will hang my head in shame. However, in my defence, if we hadn’t, I may never have written The Hidden Saga.

A bypass was run through the top of our street and our tree managed to survive, but there was no protest to save it, we didn’t need to. It escaped by meters, it lived in the right place. I visited it when I was taking photos for my book cover for Hidden with my daughter ‘Crazytooner’, who designed the cover for me. There is still a swing there, hanging from its biggest branch. That tree must have a tale or two to tell. It saw all my generation, plus the older kids who used to dominate it when we were young. Who knows how many others have treated it as their own and claimed it for themselves? Today there is a new generation of children coming through and the cycle begins again. I think that tree will see us all out.

Serina Hartwell – Author of The Hidden Saga


Thank you for taking the time out to read my blog. Don’t forget to follow me and tell a friend. Why not leave me your thoughts or a good review? I have a new website available at – http://www.serinahartwell.com

What Made Me a Writer – Writing in Secret

Serina Hartwell - Author

Serina Hartwell – Author

The need to write was getting stronger, all the while – I couldn’t deny it any longer.

Once I had discovered that I could write, it was like Christmas day, every day. Suddenly, I was making great progress and I could see my achievement across my page. Naturally the first thing I wanted to do was to share my new discovery with my fiancé, Matt, so I did. We left the house one evening, shortly after my discovery and walked up to our local pub for a drink without the kids. Life for us was already starting to change as our children were growing up and becoming independent of us, we could finally do a simple thing like that, without getting a babysitter, something that had always been in short supply when the kids were little. So with our new found freedom we took a trip out of the house for an hour.

I remember walking up our very steep hill, struggling to keep up with him and bursting with the excitement of my news. I couldn’t wait to get there to tell him, because I knew that what I had discovered was life changing. I had a new beginning, something to pick me up out of the rut I had found myself in. So off we went and soon arrived. We bought our drink and found a nice secluded spot in the bar area and I couldn’t wait any longer. Out the question, “How would you feel if I became a writer?” poured. I looked at him, searching his face for an answer, completely elated at my new beginning and slowly watched his face as negativity choked it. “No!” came the answer.

There was no time taken to think about it, no consideration for the excitement I was bursting with, a simple ‘no’ finished the conversation there and then. I have to tell you that although I may not have shown it, I was pretty devastated. I remember my insides wanting to curl up in a foetal ball and hide from the world. I suddenly felt on display, like the whole pub had heard and were watching my inner crisis. Of course no one had heard, nor were they interested, but there it was, my dream screwed up in a ball and thrown across the room along with my excitement and self-esteem. If you’ve ever had a long night, it’s probably nothing compared to that one. I couldn’t let him see how hurt I was. I had to sit there and be entertaining, but inside all I wanted to do was cry my heart out.

I know my fiancé, and at the time I knew that no meant no. There wasn’t any point arguing with him, it would have been a waste of my time and energy. Pleading was demeaning, so I resigned myself to forgetting the dream and to getting on with my career that was going nowhere. You see, at the time I had worked tirelessly for a promotion at work. I worked all my evenings and weekends, late into the night. I stayed back and worked an extra two hours on top of my working day that I wasn’t getting paid for, nor acknowledged for, to get a department up and running for my employer, but when it came to promotion, I was passed up in favour of another. This reality check hit me hard. I suddenly saw how I had been used. I had been looking for something special to do with my life since leaving school. I’d worked in numerous sectors, trying lots of different jobs and careers, but nothing had ever satisfied that need. This job was the closest I had been to achieving it. I knew that commitment to work wasn’t the problem, nor was skill, I was simply on the wrong path. I needed to get on the right path, to be doing the thing that I was supposed to be doing with my life. This new career direction I’d been forced into was the catalyst I needed for change.

If I could work that hard for someone else, then surely I could turn that around and apply those same attributes to a project of my own. I had never needed to leave a job as much, in my life before. I loved the people I worked with, but I needed a job that was fulfilling. Yet my fiancé had told me not to be a writer for a living, so I had a huge conflict. I was torn.

Days went by, I had put the writing aside and tried to distract myself, ignoring the urge inside me to continue, but no matter how hard I tried, everything came back to writing. It was all I could think about – my mind was bursting with images. I went off my food, everything became tasteless; every task at work that I’d seen as a new and exciting challenge, became monotonous and boring, or just another problem to solve. I could see no future with this employer. There was nothing to work for, nowhere for me to aspire to, but I had a mortgage and bills to pay and the recession had hit hard – there were no jobs. So I stayed with my employer, keeping my head down and hoping for a way out of my situation, but couldn’t really see a way out with the recession.

The need to write was getting stronger, all the while. I couldn’t deny it any longer and the old adage, ‘when one door closes, another one open,’ circled in my mind, over and over. So I sat at my desk and reassessed my career expectations. I knew that I no longer had a career, I had a job now.

Trapped, I slowly began to question myself. From the summer of 2010, all the way through 2013, was like living in hell for me. I had given all I could and had done my best at work, so the problem then must surely lie with me, but they were still coming to me for all the answers.

I have to admit that the night at the pub, hadn’t deterred me for long. I love my fiancé, but I have always had the ability to see where we needed to be further down the line. With everything that was happening at work, I knew from the start that I could never come back from what they had done to me, so I had to move forward. He didn’t understand just how bad things were for me, because I tried to shield him from as much as I could and deal with it on my own. Reinvention was my only way forward.

The urge to write had become so strong that I couldn’t resist it any longer. Deep down, I knew that this was my way forward. I didn’t know what was driving me in this direction, but I had never experienced anything so powerful in my life before and knew I couldn’t ignore it. So I did something that I am quite ashamed of now, and started writing in secret, even though I knew that he wouldn’t support my new direction. If nothing else, I had reached a point in my life where everything was a ‘no’ anyway. Anything I asked for, I got one blanket answer – NO! The only person who could change that was me and I had to try, so every spare minute I had, I got my laptop out and I wrote as much as I could.

I was beginning to realise that I was in the company of other writers, some more successful than others, so I could see first-hand that there was a way of making an income from it. Slowly, Hidden started to take shape and I knew that I had the foundations for a book. I had to stand back a few times and shake myself, because I had no idea where this stuff was coming from, but once I had opened that gate, everything started pouring through. The tidal wave of creativity shows no signs of slowing down today and I know in the long run I made the right decision, but at the time I couldn’t deny that Matt was suspicious.

One day we sat down and he came right out and asked me if I was having an affair. I had to laugh. He had watched me on the computer, typing away and assumed the worst. I had never been so happy to put him straight about something. I showed him my book and asked him what he thought. He never gave me a direct answer, but from that point on, I never wrote in secret again. He has supported me all the way.

As I run the two careers side by side, very few people at work know that I am a writer and author and have been since that hot sunny day in August. I look back at the hell I have been through since I got sick and can now cherish this time. I have let go of many of my responsibilities at work. I now plough this time into my own venture. Sometimes the tower has to crumble to give us a new beginning. If none of it had happened, I would have still been doing the same job, probably for many years to come. With a publishing contract signed, and my first book about to be released imminently, I am still there, working at the same place. I can hear the gasps now, as you read this, especially after they treated me so badly. I knew, however, that if I was going to get my writing career off the ground, I needed to focus just on that. Applying for other jobs and the prospect of retraining and starting again from scratch, were taking the focus and my energy away from the writing, so I’m running the wheel and working toward a new goal – To be a full-time writer and author.

Serina Hartwell – Author of The Hidden Saga


Thank you for taking the time out to read my blog. Don’t forget to follow me and tell a friend. Why not leave me your thoughts or a good review? I have a new website available at – http://www.serinahartwell.com