Less than two weeks into my short story and I’ve just finished the section where Elle comes face to face with the past. She’s already uncovered some secrets but there’s a heart wrenching discovery that she isn’t prepared for and I’ve set the scene for this in a restaurant close to the Albert Dock in Liverpool. It’s called the Brasco Lounge and is on the ground level of one of the new apartment blocks at the waterfront close to the Museum of Liverpool…and it just so happens to be around the corner from my office. This photo was taken in there the other week…maybe I should have moved all of those wine bottles out of the way before I took the picture!
But there’s no time to relax this weekend, I’m at 16k words already and the end is in sight. I’m having sleepless nights working out how those final scenes should play out and wondering Elle should be reacting to everything she’s discovering. I knew before I started what I wanted to happen to my heroine but now I’m getting to know her, I have to think about what feels natural and I’m already revisiting those preconceived ideas so I can come up with a satisfying ending, not only for the reader but for Elle too.
What happened next
I’ve managed 10,000 words so far which is half way through my targetted word count even though I’m still working on the fourth section of the eight I’d split the story into. I’m not too worried though because I know the final section is relatively short and I’m happy with the pace so far.
A new character has appeared (as planned I should add). Angie is Elle’s best friend and has recently separated from her husband Chris, who just so happens to be a work colleague of Rick’s. Part of my story revolves around the changing relationships between the two couples and is adding to the shifting foundations of Elle’s marriage. Next on my to do list will be the introduction of Corrine but I don’t think I can even say who she is or how she fits in without giving too much away. It’s only a short story after all and if I explain too much here then what’s the point in reading it??
But it’s not only in this blog that I have to work out how much to reveal, that same concern is a feature of my writing at the moment. I’m deliberating over what pieces of the puzzle should be revealed and when. I’ve already decided that some of the conversation between Elle and Charlie in the earlier sections are giving away too much so I’ve made a note and when it comes to the second draft, I’ll have to remove some references.
I took time out yesterday to go to the cinema but it’s hard to completely put the story out of my mind at the moment. We had gone to see a 3D movie and I was sitting there thinking about what I was going to write next when my daughter nudged me. The film had started and everyone except me had put their 3D glasses on. I hadn’t even noticed the blurry screen!
And as for what is preoccupying me, it was the conversation that will happen between Elle and Corrine. Now that’s going to be interesting…
What happened next
Having to balance a full time job with my writing means that I tend to wring out every available minute in the day. During the working week, I’ll come home from work and immediately switch the computer on and get some words on the page. I’ve told myself, 500 words a day is a perfectly reasonable output but I don’t listen to myself very much and have been managing over 1000 on good days. But it’s not all about the word count or sitting in front of the computer and yesterday was a good reminder of that. I spent far too long last night writing and rewriting the same paragraph until I eventually had something I was almost happy with. It was only after sleeping on it that I woke up this morning and thought…that’s what I needed to do!
That’s why I like to have a long pause between one burst of writing and the next. It gives me time to carry on the conversations my characters are having in my head or to visualise the scenes I’ve just created. It’s usually when I don’t even realise I’m thinking about the story that the best ideas pop into my head. More often than not I get my best ideas when I’m doing something mundane like shopping or driving to work and suddenly I’ll think…why didn’t she say that? Would she really do that? Wouldn’t she notice this? Wouldn’t she ask that?
Hopefully it’s that part of my editing process that makes the conversations flow more realistically and sometimes it can add a new twist to the story. I’m certainly doing that with Elle and there’s one scene I’m about to write that came to life while I was sitting in the car at the traffic lights on Aigburth Road coming home from work. Apologies to my fellow drivers for missing the light turning to green!
What happened next
Remember all of those empty pages? Well not any more. I’m now on day three and I’ve already completed nine pages.
As I mentioned, I’ve broken the story up into eight sections, allowing 2000 words per section which gives me a little bit of wriggle room if I need to extend some sections. Amazingly I’m on track and have finished the first section. The hardest thing has been to switch my mind from the characters in my third book (which was originally The Bench but now has a more imaginative working title of The Lonely Swan). In The Lonely Swan, my main character Maggie is blind so I’ve spent months describing surroundings and situations in a completely different way, concentrating on sounds and smells rather than visual descriptions. It’s a hard habit to break but the more I’m writing, the more I feel like I’m getting under Elle’s skin.
I can’t wait to carry on with the story but tomorrow there will be no time to write as I’m at the Albert Dock in Liverpool for an author event with Jane Costello and Erica James (Blue Bar 6pm – 8pm). Drop in and say hello if you’re nearby!
What happened next
My short story is still in the ‘planning phase,’ but not for much longer. I have the synopsis I sketched out a while ago and I’ve now split it into eight sections. That way I have a bit more of an idea of how to pace the story…it’s not a full length novel I keep telling myself! One of the hardest decisions I find at the start of writing a new project is picking names for my characters. I always seem to fall into the trap of plucking them out of thin air, thinking that I’ll revisit them later on only to find that I’ve become so attached to the character that I couldn’t possibly consider rechristening them. I have a feeling I’ve fallen into that same trap again…
Along with names for my characters, I’ve been trying to picture them in my head and I’ve listened in on little snatches of their conversations. There’s Elle who is thirty five and married to Rick and they have a six year old son called Charlie. So far it’s the conversations with Elle and Charlie that are capturing my imagination so that’s where I’m going to start the story. I already know how I want the very first scene to play out and what they’ll say to each other. Now I just need to start writing before I forget everything!
By my estimation, if I’m aiming for a story length of 20,000 words then that’s 80 pages…80 so far blank pages. Gulp!
Well they’re not getting filled while I’m messing about with this blog, are they? Bye for now!
What happened next…
I’ve been tasked with writing a short story and I’ll have to admit it’s a bit of a challenge. Apologies if you’ve opened this post expecting me to tell you how to do it…I’m afraid the title of the blog is more of a question than a statement!
If I’m honest, I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d read a short story when I was asked to write one myself but despite my initial reservations, I’m actually starting to come around to the idea. By short, were’ talking about one fifth the size of a full length novel. It’s not exactly something I can whip up in a couple of days but still, it’s not the mammoth task of starting a novel and it won’t need to be as complex. I don’t have to think about sub-plots or develop lots of different characters and when it comes to the inevitable rewrite and restructuring once my editor’s seen it then surely it’s going to be easier to deconstruct and put back together. There, I’ve talked myself into it!
I’ve already gone through some story ideas with my editor Kim Young at HarperCollins and we’ve agreed on one that I’d developed a while ago as a future project which she thinks would make a good short story. It’s about a married woman who has spent the last ten years trying to emulate her parents’ marriage but is failing miserably. The story begins shortly after her dad’s funeral. He died of a broken heart, unable to deal with the loss of his wife a couple of years earlier. As well as leaving my heroine feeling alone, it has also emphasised how devoted her parents were to each other. But there’s the issue of her dad’s pocket watch and the little bronze key hanging from the chain. It might open up a door to the past or a can of worms…or both.
So with the storyline agreed, Kim and I had to negotiate the word length. I had it in my mind that 10,000 words had been the original idea, Kim thought it was 30,000. When we checked the contract, it was slap bang in the middle at 15-20,000 but given that it’s going to be an e-book, I think she’s happy for me to make it longer if necessary.
So why am I telling you all of this? Well, ready or not I’m about to start writing it and I’m going to post regular blogs over the next few weeks to track my voyage of discovery. There, I’ve committed to doing it now and there’s no going back!
What happened next?
I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to a few book clubs in the last six months and the first thing I asked myself was…where have all these book clubs been hiding?? I think the answer is fairly obvious, they’ve been around forever, I’ve just been embarrassingly ignorant of them. I could say I’ve been too busy writing to read but that’s no excuse so… shame on me!
OK there are the big ones that even I couldn’t miss and of course the Richard and Judy Book Club is up there with the biggest and I certainly owe an awful lot to them for selecting my first book for their Spring 2012 list. But it’s the smaller book clubs that we should be shouting about. The independent ones that have been brought to life because a community, a company or simply a group of friends decided meeting up regularly to talke about books they’ve read and to share their views over the odd glass of wine wasn’t such a bad idea. It’s easy to skim through a book and then go onto the next without really stopping to think about what you’ve just read. And of course by listening to other people, you get a different perspective, no two people will read the same book and be moved, intrigued, excited in the same way.
I’ve visited a few book clubs that are run by groups of friends, where everyone takes it in turns to host the evening. I don’t think it’s just a good thing because it’s encouraging people to read and maybe broaden their horizons on what they read…it’s also a good excuse to set aside time on a regular basis to meet up and catch up…and talk about books of course.
I was also invited along to Merseytravel who had encouraged their staff to join in the Six Book Challenge and it was great to see so many people being encouraged to read more and also as part of their scheme, to write too so maybe one year they’ll be reading a book from a homegrown author.
My latest foray into book clubs was at the Neighbourhood Cafe in Childwall, Liverpool. It’s run by Lynne Collins and it has everything that a book club should have. A warm and welcoming atmosphere, great food and hospitality and because it’s open to anyone, you get a real mix of people. I went along to talk about Yesterday’s Sun and there were plenty of questions that really got me thinking and my mind was still buzzing when I got home, in fact I couldn’t sleep. So now I know what I’ve been missing out on I’d love to go back there as a reader rather than a visiting author, I loved it!
So I decide to start a blog and then what happens? I spend days wondering what on earth it is I’m supposed to write…and that got me thinking…
In the run up to the publication of my first book I was regularly asked what made me start to write and the answer was quite simple. Nathan. He was the reason and if you read the author note in Yesterday’s Sun or some of the articles I’ve linked to this blog then you’ll understand why. What I’ve never been asked however, is why hadn’t I written before then. Why had I waited until I was hmm…let me work this out…forty one before even attempting to tackle a full length manuscript?
To be honest, I don’t know the answer but I’m guessing it’s the same reason I stalled when I first attempted this blog and it’s probably the same reason many, many people toy with the idea of writing a book but never quite get around to it. Perhaps it was fear or a lack of self-belief. Maybe it was a reluctance to commit so much time and effort…it’s certainly a daunting prospect to stare at all of those blank pages waiting to be filled.
But in amongst all of that there was another reason. I had once watched an interview with a successful author, I can’t remember who and I can’t remember when but I do remember what he said. He was talking about all the countless people who came up to him and told him how they wanted to be a writer and asked him for any tips. His reply was quite brutal. He told them that if they had really wanted to be writers then they would have done something about it already, they wouldn’t have been able to stop themselves. For me it conjured up this idea that authors were born not made and so I suppose it gave me the excuse to stop trying.
It wasn’t until I found myself at a point in my life where I knew I had that overwhelming desire to write that I realised there was perhaps some truth in what that author had said. But what he’d failed to recognise was that people sometimes change, life can do that to you and when it does then maybe that’s the catalyst that turns those who ponder into those who write.
It’s just a shame I took my time starting this blog. So much has happened in the last eighteen months! Everything from getting the first publishing deal, hearing the news that Yesterday’ Sun had been selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club to getting that second deal and so much more in between. So as well as the (hopefully) regular updates on where my fledging career is taking me I’m going to try to throw in the odd blog to bring together the edited highlights I’ve missed so far.
Phew! So there it is, my first blog and I’ve made the commitment to write some more so please, please watch this space!!