Author of Time Rep and Note To Self

A brief history of Time Rep

As you may or may not know, Time Rep took me quite a while to write – six years in fact. But those of you who have read it will know that it’s hardly War and Peace in terms of length (or indeed quality) – in fact it’s only 267 pages long. That means that on average, each page took me a whopping 8.2 days to write. So what the hell took me so long? Did I set myself some sort of challenge whereby I only allowed myself to type by pressing my nose to each key on the keyboard one at a time? Did I carve the words into slabs of stone before handing them to a typist? Or did I fall asleep at the keyboard in the middle of writing every now and then (which often happens to me in the middle ddddddddddddddf dffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff of writing some sentences)?

No, the reason Time Rep took me ages was down to two key factors: First of all, I was writing it around a full time job, and secondly, I had no idea where the story was going when I started, which certainly slowed things down somewhat as I tried to work out what should happen next. And it’s this second reason that I’m going to explore today – the different stages of development that Time Rep went through over the five years it took me to write, and how it got to be the book garnering mixed-to-positive reviews that you see today (if you exclude the one-star review someone gave it on amazon which I still cry about to this day). Be warned though – if you haven’t read the book yet, the rest of this post contains major spoilers, or “spoilerzzzzzzzzzz” as they say on some other nerd websites:

When I first sat down to write Time Rep in 2002, the only thing I had in my mind was the title, and the concept of having a holiday rep meeting tourists from the future. That was it. I hadn’t worked out anything about the alien invasion, the supercomputer predicting Geoff’s insignificance to the space-time continuum, the scene during the Great Fire of London – nothing. All I had was a mental image of a guy asleep on a sofa. I didn’t even know Tim would turn out to be a spy working for the holiday company. In a very early draft, Mr Knight transported Geoff to the future without him realising (as London was still the same in the year 3050), asking him to come back when he’d worked out what he’d done. And although this idea was eventually scrapped, the concept led to the idea that the London of 3050 had been kept the same as it;s 21st Century counterpart due to the alien attack, which in turn led to the idea that the Varsarians were trying to change history.

By 2006 I was about halfway through writing the book – Eric was dead, and Geoff had been knocked unconscious at the party and hypnotised. But from there, I just couldn’t work out what should happen next. Everything I wrote just seemed wrong, and I eventually stopped writing for about a year. I just didn’t know how to proceed. What should happen next? Then one day, a stream of ideas hit me all at once. In particular, I came up with the central idea of the alien invasion, and Tim watching the destruction of humanity through a simulation. I remember the day well – I was actually on a work trip, sitting in my hotel room. I was due to meet up with some colleagues for dinner, and just as I was getting ready to leave, the entire second half of the book hit me at once – the alien invasion, the logic behind defeating the supercomputer, the epic space battle at the end, everything. I remember almost shaking in anticipation as the plot revealed itself to me in my mind, and the next minute, I was frantically writing it all down in scribbles. I rang my colleagues and told them to eat without me, as I couldn’t stop myself from writing. Two hours later, I had twelve pages of notes, a full synopsis for the second half of the book, and severe cramp in my right hand. When I got home, I started writing again, and three years later the book was complete.

By 2008, I had a first draft ready to go. It was quite different (i.e. worse) than the version you see today, but I was reasonably pleased with it, so I started sending the book out to agents. I remember this process taking ages, because each agent wanted the manuscript in a different format – be it the first three chapters, the first five chapters, the first 50 words, a full synopsis, no synopsis, covering letter, chapter breakdown, etc. All in all, I sent the book out to about 40 agents, and over the next few months I received about 40 rejection letters. Some of the letters had some nice feedback, but overall the feeling was that sci-fi was a hard sell, and the book just wasn’t good enough. I was disappointed, but I figured these people probably knew what they were talking about, so I put the book in a drawer and set to work on trying to write a better one. (The second book eventually became Note to Self, although whether or not people will think it’s better than Time Rep remains to be seen!)

Then in September 2010, I was cleaning out my desk and found the copy of Time Rep stuffed between some video game magazines. It got me thinking about how much I had enjoyed writing it, so I found the file on my computer and started reading it again. Having forgotten most of the jokes and the nuances of the plot, I found myself quite entertained reading through it again, so I decided to upload it to free-ebooks.com for free. What the hell, I thought. Within a year it had been downloaded 60,000 times, and was the fifth highest rated book on the website. From this, I got some interest from publisher Altin Bilek Yayinlari to purchase the Turkish language rights, and it was from here that the literary agency Diane Banks Associates offered to represent me to publishers worldwide.

And this was when the hard work really started. You see, although Time Rep had received some really positive reviews, they were from people who hadn’t had to pay for it. If people had to shell out their hard-earned cash for the book, would they be so kind? None of us thought they would – the book was a little short, clocking in at about 70,000 words, and it was felt the overall plot and character development could be greatly improved.

So I set about re-writing it, using feedback not only from my agent, but also a few of my friends. Bad jokes were changed for less bad ones. A significant amount of description was added. Geoff’s character arc was improved so he evolved over the course of the story. Geoff and Tim displayed more comraderie towards each other. The nameless aliens were given a name. The Fire of London scene was lengthened to include a chase. The trip back to prehistoric times during the interview was added. Ruth’s knowledge of events was made more explicit so the twist at the end had more impact. Overall, several improvements were made to the story, and by June 2012 the book had jumped up to about 81,000 words and was ready to go. But it would still take another six months before finding a home at Diversion Books.

Then came the job of Americanizing Time Rep. After all, Diversion Books is an American publisher, selling largely to an American readership. So prams became strollers. ITV became Fox news. Courgettes became Zucchini. Trousers became pants. And so on. By June 2013 I was finally done, and I watched as the book was finally released – a full eleven and a half years after I wrote down the first five words of the manuscript:

Time Rep

by Peter Ward

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