I live in North London with husband Jim and son Paul. I was born in Scotland and moved south in late 1960s to live in Essex, then Suffolk where my nearing completion novel, All the Bright Days, is set. I've had many jobs (all grist to a writer's mill) including one in a cosmetics factory (features in above novel) but for several years have worked as a medical secretary combined with intermittent freelance writing for magazines and newspapers.
I told myself: don’t go on the internet, don’t keep looking at how to write, how to do a novel. But in the end I did and I found this thing called the Snowflake Method. What appealed to me is it’s written by a guy who is a physicist and a writer. I quite like the idea of the scientific approach. Basically what he’s done is said write one sentence (15 to 20 words) which encapsulates your whole novel. It takes an hour. It’s really hard. Then you widen that to a paragraph then a character study for each person in your book then a one page synopsis. The idea is you get a high level view of your novel.
So I did all this and all of a sudden it sort of clicked. I thought I knew my characters but did the character exercise with the slightly more difficult character. I delved back into her past and all of a sudden I could see why she did what she does. It’s really helped so I found that very helpful.
My book’s been trickling on and off since 2006 but now it feels like I’ve got to the point where it’s got to be done. I just want to get it done. It’s almost become like a dissertation I’ve got to do in order to pass an exam or something. I’ve got to stop mucking about and do it now. So I was relieved I’d gone on the internet that day and done what I said I’d never do again.
I’m still carrying on with my higgledy piggledy messy draft with loads of background material and then my intention is to start from the beginning and refocus on it and just bash out a proper first draft. A lot of it occurs over such a long time and as I’ve started to address the characters and where they’re going some of it is not even gonna be used.
The basic frame work is the same, the structure’s still the same and the sequence of events is the same but some characters and their personalities have changed. It would be ludicrous for it to stay the same. I’ve changed too and the further away you get from something because it’s based on real events, the more you start to think well that’s not really how it was. It’s just simpler to start with my new approach.
Advice to those who have writing friends who are stuck. Don’t let them drift.
Say “Oy, what are you doing? Are you still writing it?”
Or arrange to meet up with them because often that’s all people need to get them back on track again. Kraige got in touch with me last year and he said “What’s happening, are you still doing it?” I sent him a story map and he made some helpful comments. It actually gave me quite a boost of confidence again. You can lose confidence and faith in what you’re doing. You know silly day dreaming about the book but the minute you turn it into words on the page you think oh my God what’s happened? I can’t get anything from my head onto the paper.
Since then I’m actually just doing it on my own. I’ve found a way of making myself do it that I didn’t have before. Also, it might sound a bit strange but I don’t want to read any of it out to people right now because then I’ll feel I’ve done it and I want it to be an on-going process in my own head until it’s in more or less a book form.