I'm delighted to say that several writers in my classes approach the end of the year with first drafts completed, or near completion. Some of these are novels, others are memoirs. For most it's their first big writing project. Their determination and resolution are admirable, taking themselves off to cafes or libraries, or simply hiding out at home until, eventually, the thing gets done. Talent helps, obviously, but without applying bottom to seat and tackling that blank screen or page, nothing will get written. Hopefully, now they have that precious first draft these emerging writers will take a breather - get outdoors, spend quality time with friends and family - before embarking on the first edit. Well done! There is light at the end of the tunnel.
I have neglected my blog, but I have been writing. My pile of notes, sketches of scenes and first chapters of my novel are underway, although there's still a very long way to go. It occurred to me that writing a novel is rather like mudlarking, the practise of scouring river banks for washed-up treasures. In her recent book 'Mudlarking', Lara Maiklem describes her fascination with the Thames, and items from Roman coins to Victorian bottles and Boris bikes which the river leaves behind. A writer must piece together the flotsam and jetsam of ideas that pass through her brain and decide if they have any worth. Sometimes the value of an idea isn't immediately apparent, but you stash it away, just in case. Perhaps it can be polished into something meaningful. News clippings, photos, and beguiling inanimate objects - they're all potential treasures
So where do you start when trying to come up your main character, the protagonist who is so vital to a compelling story? That blank piece of paper (or screen) can be intimidating, or just downright annoying. I've started with scribbling down notes, which at this stage are random ideas for this so-called hero. How old are they? Where are they from? Who are their friends, family, colleagues, neighbours? The main thing, of course, is to try and decide what makes them tick. What are the things they care about, their hopes, fears and dreams? What is their story really about?
For my own novel, my protagonist is a middle-aged woman who reaches a crisis point in her life and must decide which option to follow. A friend asked if this was a thinly disguised version of me, and while there are some similarities (I did work and live in London, for example, and I did move to the country), everything else is different. The great freedom of being a writer is that my character can say and do things which I wouldn't have the nerve to do. I am gradually getting to know her, and a big step in that direction will be deciding on her name. No doubt the right one will pop into my head when I'm busy thinking about something else!
So, after six months of house renovation, everything has been retrieved from storage and I have a clear desk. Moving from a Hampshire village to a Surrey town brings mixed feelings. The convenience of shops, station and friends around the corner, versus the joy of swifts swooping over thatched rooftops and waves of poppies in a neighbour's field. If nothing else, this dilemma has inspired a novel. I already have a folder full of notes, scraps of newspaper cuttings and photos. Now I just need to work out where the story is going.
Hi, I'm Claire and welcome to my website. Most of my published writing has been magazine articles and corporate or non-profit communications. But now it's time to get on with my novel! This blog isn't all about writing, but other 'stuff' that pops up when I'm trying to write.