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My Works in Progress

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Construction of a novel and gliding on the wind

I've been busy at work this week - I did put a post on this blog about all the excitement of Annual Council week, but removed it (Lane knows why). I've written a very 'nice' short story instead and posted it off to the 'People's Friend' because I think it will appeal to that kind of market. I've called it Albatross because I know I'm sailing close to the wind at work by blogging but I'll probably use a pseudonym on the remote chance it is accepted. Anyone who would like a sneak preview, let me know and I'll e-mail it through.

I've submitted no less than four short stories this week. Before anyone collapses in disbelief I have coaxed over forty unsubmitted stories out of the writing closet over the first months of this year. 'Magpies and Marigolds' was first written in 1984 and made me chuckle when I typed up the handwritten script. I had obviously based the central character 'Sheila' on my grandma. I'd captured her character exactly and it made me shed a tear because it felt as if she was still here. Grandma had written on the bottom of the script 'I'm not sending this off - everyone will laugh at me' (I always used her name to submit short stories.)

I also submitted 'Torchlight' and 'Full Circle' but to different magazines.

Anyhow back to the novel. I need some advice. I've started Book No. 3 and the working title is 'Going Back'. I have posted off the first three chapters and synopsis to Suzanne Ruthven to work on in the workshop 'Plotting and Coursing Your Novel' in July/August in Caerleon. The thing is, I'm getting the same sort of excitement I felt with 'Twisted Garlands' and I can't resist galloping on with it. I know I shouldn't really, but the pull of the characters and the plot is very strong. I just have to get on with it while the enthusiasm is at its peak.

Going Back is written in the first person present in the odd numbered chapters - with Tamsin telling her own story in real time as she begins her frantic quest to find her roots and a family she not only has never met, but who don't know of her existence. The pace is very urgent and emotional as Tammy discovers not only shocking facts about the past, but discovers her inner self too. The even numbered chapters are told in the third person past, as her father, Alan - after 30 years of silence - reveals the back story of his unusual marriage to Tammy's mother and the reasons why they cut themselves off from their families. The even numbered chapters are deeper and more slowly paced that Tammy's emotionally-charged first person present chapters.

My daughter has read the first three chapters and declared it better than Twisted Garlands (very undiplomatically I must say!). However, I read some on-line advice that said that telling two parallel stories in this way should be avoided by new writers because it is very difficult to balance the two, with the reader usually preferring one of the plots to the other.

Has anyone else heard this? And has anyone got any advice on how I can manage it? I really do want to try this approach in 'Going Back' because as well as mixing the past with the bang-up-to date present, I want Tammy's determined personality to break through as the novel progresses and the best way I can do this is by using the first person present and a fast pace.

All suggestions gratefully accepted before I race off into the sunset in the wrong direction!


Captain Black said...

I sincerely hope that's a myth, because my own novel The Bridge Across Forever has three plot lines!

My technique is to write them as three completely separate stories, though obviously carefully plotting their inter-relationships. This ensures that each of the three parts is self-consistent and can stand up well on its own. When all three are completed, I'll splice them together in cycling chapters. Hopefully the pace can be varied by adjusting the sizes of the chapters and therefore the frequency of changes between the three. Everything comes together at the end, with a bit of luck (and careful planning).

I personally think you are onto a very good idea Annie. Don't let anyone deter you from writing what you want. I've had several writers and wannabes suggesting that I "dumb down" my work into simple plot, single POV etc. I'm just not buying it!

Incidentally, did you send your chapter and synopsis directly to Suzanne Ruthven? I couldn't find her e-mail address, so I'm going to send my stuff to Gerry, the Writers' Holiday organiser. Actually that's what my conference instructions say to do.

Very much looking forward to that, and to the meeting on June 10th.

HelenMH said...

Blogger is being naughty and just ate my comment!!!

I think your novel sounds really interesting. And I don't see why this approach shouldn't work. As long as both parts are engaging and well written - which I'm sure they will be - I don't think readers will have a problem with it. Well done on the short stories too - you're on a roll!

L-Plate Author said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
L-Plate Author said...

Sorry, made a complete mess of the comment above!

I agree with the others. I also think that if you have two or more characters a reader will always like one better than the rest and will want to know more about them, no matter what point of view they are written in.

I think you should go with the flow, write what you want to. I've made many comments on my blog! about what genre I think I am and now I am writing book three in 'my' genre.

Good luck xx

Annieye said...

Thanks for this guys. I feel a bit happier about going ahead now.

Kev - I sent my 3 chaps and syn to Gerry, like it says in the blurb, but it does say he will forward it on to Suzanne somewhere! Perhaps they all go in one big package at the end of May? I've been playing with the novel this afternoon and your idea of writing the two stories and then splicing them together seems sound.

Helen - I'm certainly on a roll with getting the short stories out, but whether or not they are accepted remains to be seen! Thanks for the useful comment.

L-plate - Hi, thanks for your comment. This 'genre' thing is confusing isn't it? Twisted Garlands is definitely a family saga, but Going Back is a different story, different genre, but don't ask me what the genre is, coz I haven't a clue!

KAREN said...

I've just read a novel written from four points of view and thoroughly enjoyed it! I think you should go with your instincts, especially as you are so excited about it, because I think that emotion will shine through in your writing :o)

Lane said...

I think you've answered your own question Annie in that this novel is getting you fired up and that's what's most important. The different tenses sound really interesting and would work to portray the different voices and pace. Go for it.

Also you're not a 'new' writer. You've been writing for years and you're published!

Go Annie! (and yes please - send Albatross my way please:-)

Debs said...

I think you know what's working or not and it sounds as if the different tenses and points of view are going well. I would go with your instincts on this one.

I'm in awe at the amount of short stories you've written. I find them very hard to do.