Thursday, 2 May 2013

Once upon a tome...



Hang out the flags, I've got an idea for a story.
We tend to see events and perspectives from the beginning of things, without always appreciating the beginning (or the ending) before the beginning.

Sometimes, it's the 'why'.

Why was the 'wicked fairy' in Sleeping Beauty wicked?
What drove Laurie Lee to start his journey in As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning?
What made Craig Campbell choose his way of life in Sinclair Macleod's The Reluctant Detective series?

When it comes to novels, I think that authors juggle three distinct needs.

What does the reader actually need to know, what does you need them to know, and (still with me?) what do you need to know purely for yourself?

Initially, in my Brit thriller, Standpoint, I alluded to main character Thomas Bladen's difficult childhood. But the more I wrote, the more I wanted to know what actually went on. So I explored that and some of those formative events filtered through to the manuscript. That way the reader can trace a thread all the way from who my protagonist is all the way back to some of the experiences that moulded his behaviour.

Even if you're writing about a baby, its home environment and the attitude of its parents (which will contribute to its conditioning and the life awaiting it) owe a debt to the past.


I'm in the process of submitting two novels to agents / publishers (at time of writing, I haven't decided which road to take). To complicate things further, each book is a different genre. Standpoint is a thriller about a civilian who joins the UK's Surveillance Support Unit, while Scars and Stripes is a transatlantic comedy drama set in the 1980s. 

Being back on the submissions trail, it's easy to buy into the notion that I'm there at the beginning. Except that I'm not. My trusty spreadsheet reminds me that I've been contracted four times for other books, and offered a further three contracts (at different times) for a fantasy novel, Covenant, that I eventually chose to self-publish.

As writers we tend to see ourselves at the start of something, which can be energising or daunting depending on how you feel about that all-important next stage. But it's important to recognise the steps and individuals (seen and unseen) that brought us to this point. 

The journey of a thousand miles may well begin with the first step, but let's not forget all the other journeys that put us there, willing and able.

7 comments:

  1. That's a really good point. Single journeys are usually no such thing. The first step is never really the start. I shall remember that!

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    1. The flip side of that, of course, is that no journey is an end in itself. Each staging post, whether positive or negative, is part of a greater journey.

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  2. I'm not going to comment on the actual content of your post. I'm just going to jump up and down excitedly while screaming, "SCARS AND STRIPES! SCARS AND STRIPES! SCARS AND STRIPES!" I can't wait to rush down to the only bookstore in my county and buy the hardcover.

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    1. Ah, the welcoming optimism of Americans! I've cast my bread to the wind, so let's see what occurs.

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  3. I'd like to write something wise and wonderful, but it's Sunday afternoon and I'm tired, so I'll just say I'm with Motheroad, screaming, 'Scars and Stripes! Scars and Stripes!' Although I'm not jumping up and down, because as I said, I'm tired. On the subject of Mr T's books, left a review for you for the very brilliant The Covenant.
    x

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    1. Hi Deb, thanks for your comment for your review of Covenant. I have high hopes for Scars & Stripes, so we're all waiting for it to find a happy home in the publishing world. Meantime, if you, Chloe or 'Mother' ever fancy being beta readers, a review Word doc or PDF is there for the asking.

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  4. So true. I always find it fascinating wondering what may have been if I'd done something different, chose differently at some point - would I still make it to the same point? And you're right, it does always feel like the beginning! :)

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