Monthly Archives: September 2013

I’m Only Human.

This wasn’t the next blog post I was intending to write.

However what happened to me today ties together thoughts from three of my previous blog posts and so I felt compelled to write about it and the next one can just wait.

First of all my last blog post “An Original is Worth More Than a Copy?” focused on the influences and inspirations I drew on for Prophecy of Innocence. In it I questioned whether writers ever really have a truly original idea. I suggested probably not, but after what I have read over the past four days, I will freely admit that I was wrong.

You see I have just finished reading a book called “The Humans” by Matt Haig.

A novel, which to me, at least, is like nothing else I have ever read in the world of fiction. It took only four days for me to eat my way through it (and that was only because I had all the mundane things life throws at you like a job and gardening and  ironing and homework and children’s birthday parties to  fit in. All those things we would rather not do but do nevertheless.) If it were not for all these ‘necessary’ chores I’d have read it in an evening.

I see the word “un -put-down-able” written about so many books, only to find that quite often I do put them down and then they sit staring at me from my bedside table for months on end making me feel guilty – as though I were betraying them by not finishing them. The words on their spines penetrating into my consciousness every time I see them. Sat there. Unloved. Having promised so much and delivered so little.

“The Humans” was nothing like this. It lived up to my expectations and then exceeded them one hundred fold. I have found myself over the past few days sneaking off to the bathroom when I didn’t need to use it just to have an excuse to sit and read a chapter in peace. And this is just one of the (more minor) great things about “The Humans”. The chapters are short and manageable and easy to digest in small bite-size chunks which glide down to the gut with the silkiness of a piece of creamy chocolate. And in your gut they stay. Slipping into every space there and satisfying you with every last bite.

As I mentioned in a blog post a few weeks ago “To Write One Must Read?” I talked about how I had become a little bit of a non reader just lately. How I was struggling to pay attention and didn’t think I particularly needed to keep on reading to write. I did end by asking whether I was just reading the wrong books. Turns out yes – yes I was. And Matt Haig would be one of the first to tell me you must read to write. So far this is not going too well to promote my earlier blog posts is it? How can you trust anything I say now? How can you trust my recommendation for Matt Haig’s “The Humans”?

Ah well because of the fact it is the first fiction book I have enjoyed and read all the way through, without stopping for too long in about 3 years. So this should tell you I’m a fussy so-and-so and do not make recommendations lightly.

Secondly, the fact of the matter is “The Humans” is, quite simply, sublime. It tackles the meaning of life, the meaning of what it is to be human and some of the wider issues around depression in a way which is not obvious or depressing. Unless you have been depressed in which case you will recognise some of the metaphors Haig uses.  If indeed they are metaphors. They were for me. Perhaps for some people they will not be metaphors at all. It’s just a damn good, well written, clever story. And it talks about prime numbers and their significance. A lot.  And I hate maths and do not understand the significance of prime numbers but with “The Humans” I began to and now find myself wanting to learn more about them. So that should also tell you I can’t be feeding you a bad review.

Another reason for sharing this blog was because for me reading “The Humans” came at exactly the right moment.  As a human being and as a writer. As a writer because I recently had an idea for writing another novel. This time not a children’s one. But I felt the idea was too absurd. Too “out there”. However, reading “The Humans” made me realise it’s not. It’s what I want to write and so i should do it. I do’t mind if it never gets published. It’s a book inside me that I know one day will be written. So reading “The Humans” is helping me on my writing journey and so a review of it seems completely relevant on this page.

As a human being, reading “The Humans” was so enlightening I did not want the book to end. Haig’s wisdom permeates through every sentence in such a real and honest way I felt like I had a life map in my hand which I dared not put down. Allow me to expand.

Recently I have had a real downer on the world. A real downer on the human race, myself included. I have started to become really angry towards and intolerant of the actions of others to the point of sinking into quite a depressed and frustrated state about our society and about myself. Anger towards the small acts of selfishness I witness on a daily basis; On the roads and in the car park on the school run. Anger at the neglectfulness of parents who allow their children to ride bikes on roads without helmets therefore putting themselves and drivers at risk. Anger towards homeless people who shout abuse when you don’t give money to them. Anger, to boiling point at the bigger issues surrounding the education policies of leaders in this country and frustration at working under a system I cannot reconcile my values towards. I have felt angry at myself for not being able to deal with things in a more positive way. In short I have felt despair and hopelessness for the future.

Enter “The Humans”.

As I chomped my way through the first third of the book, I found myself feeling quite smug about how I felt about my fellow man. I was right. Humans are despicable beings, capable of violence and terrible deeds. (Although generally I find selfishness is human-kind’s most despicable trait as it is what I witness first hand rather than out and out violence, thank goodness.) Even the everyday, mundane things we humans do seem absurd and are absurd if you really think about it. But I had grown to think of them as despicable rather than absurd. “The Humans” forces you think about these mundane things and the absurdity of them but also the joy within them and so it makes you laugh. Haig makes you see them for the complete ridiculousness they are. Never have I laughed so much at one word: Texaco. (You’ll see.)

I found myself, scary as it was, easily identifying with the main protagonist of the story to whom humans seem so alien. This is how I feel often about other people. They seem so alien to me and so unreal. When I suffered from depression and anxiety a few years ago (see my blog post DePress This) I felt this even more so. In fact, at that point, I found other humans positively threatening. I was scared to interact with another human being. Much like Haig’s protagonist.

I continued greedily through the second third of the book, digesting the uncomfortable truths of attempted suicide and suicide, human vanity, depression, fear, hate, love, hope, murder, food, bullies, mathematics and change. But I still felt angry at the world. I don’t know what I expected. I think I expected I was going to feel better by reading something I could  identify with so strongly but instead I just felt uncomfortable. Gripped but uncomfortable. With myself and my own feelings towards my fellow human beings.  I still felt anger towards humans because the book highlights how everything is so damn complicated for us and we are all so selfish and fallible and, well, insignificant.

You’re all now thinking: Seriously. You are not selling this book to me. I feel depressed just reading this. But please bear with me. Remember my post DePress This? You have to put up with the rain to get the rainbow.  I had a happy ending remember. And so…

Then today, just when I thought I was going to end the book feeling more confused and angry at the world than when I had began, I read the final few pages.

And I don’t know what happened or how Haig managed to do this, but I went on the school run today and I didn’t get angry at anyone. I didn’t mind nearly being run over by the children on scooters littering the narrow pavements coming at me from the opposite direction like a swarm of wasps. I smiled at a couple of people. I even spoke to another parent on the playground rather than shrinking against the fence, hoping no one would see me. And even when I had to deal with a very difficult issue with a five year old and an issue with my union, I knew I could deal with it all. Because the end of “The Humans” gives us some wonderful advice. It gives one piece of particularly wonderful insight, which above all matters more than anything. But I won’t give a way what it is. I think everyone should discover it for themselves. Because it may be different for everyone.

This is a book review of a sort,I suppose without telling you too much. Without a synopsis or star rating. But know this:

“The Humans” is totally original and completely refreshing. It made me laugh out loud and it made me weep inside. It made me question absolutely everything about life and humanity but understand absolutely everything about life and humanity. It has given me courage to try to climb out of a spiral of anger and despair I felt myself beginning to enter into. In short it gave me hope.

If you have ever suffered from depression, read “The Humans.”

If you have ever contemplated, or are contemplating, suicide, read “The Humans.”

If you find yourself hating other humans, read “The Humans”.

If you are human read “The Humans”.

If you are not human read “The Humans.”

And then spread the word. It’s like medicine for everything in book form and we need this one to go viral.

Finally, thank you Matt Haig. I have not enjoyed a book so much in what feels like an age.

 

“The Humans” by Matt Haig is out in paperback and on Kindle in the UK now and in the USA from July 2nd. 

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An Original is Always Worth More Than a Copy?

Do any of us have a truly original idea when it comes to writing? Does it even matter much if we don’t?

I have been asking myself this question for a while now as I recently started to analyse my literary influences and began to draw parallels with books I have loved. Then last week it hit me like a ten ton truck where my main inspiration had probably come from and I hadn’t even properly realised it.

The truth is I have recently rediscovered the amazing epic The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien. This happened just the other day when my 5-year-old nephew saw the DVDs on my book (and DVD) shelf and asked to watch one. This was simply because he has seen adverts on the TV for Lord Of The Rings Lego. Not because he has read the books! Such is the power of advertising on the young. And so we settled down one Sunday afternoon and watched The Fellowship of the Ring. (Well actually we watched half of it. He is five. His attention span will not stretch yet, if ever, to nearly 3 and a half hours.)

Anyhow, re-watching this epic for the first time in a few years (and afterwards secretly watching the DVD extras!) I suddenly realised what an influence these books and films had on my own book. Not consciously. I am not entirely sure I actually write anything consciously. I certainly do not have ideas whilst actively thinking!

But so many parallels sprang to mind as I sat and watched it, I realised I have a real love of the story and an admiration of an author who so meticulously created a whole world, a whole history and a whole language just from his imagination.

Now by sheer coincidence, I grew up in the same place as Tolkien, (rather than being some long-lost relative of his!) although of course the landscape Tolkien grew up in during the 1890’s would have been very different to the landscape I found myself in during the 1980’s. Tolkien grew up in what was then the village of Sarehole, in Warwickshire, England. At that time Sarehole had not been swallowed up by the sprawl of the expanding suburbs of the city of Birmingham and it is Sarehole which is thought to have been Tolkien’s inspiration for Hobbiton.

Sarehole Mill around 1900 when as Tolkien would have known it.

An ariel view of the area which was Sarehole village as I know it. Now part of the Hall Green suburb of Birmingham. The playing fields I was taken to every Wednesday are to the left of the road.

My school playing fields were actually directly opposite Sarehole Mill which lies not far from the house where Tolkien lived as a child. Little did I know, as I was taken by bus weekly to the torture chamber, (Physical education – especially in the wet and cold – was never my favourite subject at school) that I was walking, quite literally, in Tolkien’s footsteps. Sarehole, as it was, has now been swallowed up and is part of another busy suburb of Britain’s second city and would be unrecognisable to Tolkien. One unspoiled place though  is Moseley Bog. I used to pass by Moseley Bog (thought to be the influence for the old forest on the outskirts of The Shire where the hobbits meet Tom Bombadil in Book 1)  frequently, as I lived just down the road from there during my childhood. But it wasn’t until the films came out when I was 26 years old that I was even aware of the fact I lived and grew up in the same places Tolkien had stepped. I certainly had no idea that the area I grew up in had influenced so much of the setting and some of the ideas in one of the greatest fantasy epics ever written.

Moseley Bog: Said to be the inspiration for The Dark Wood in Tolkien’s The Lord Of the Rings.

This is, of course, all completely incidental and coincidental and has nothing to do with how the stories have influenced my writing. But there are many parallels between my work (in progress) and Tolkien’s aside from the genre of fantasy adventure. Parallels which I did not consciously intend when I started writing.

Firstly my story, Prophecy of Innocence, begins at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. Trees are being torn up to make way for railways and canals and human progress. As I watched the trees being wrenched out of the ground at Isengard under Saruman’s orders in The Lord of The Rings, I couldn’t help but see the parallel. Tolkien himself is cited as saying the Industrialisation of England was influential  to this part of his story. Perhaps growing up in the same place, the heavily industrialised city of Birmingham, albeit one hundred years apart, sowed an  inevitable seed there would be a common historical theme.

In my story  I have elflings as my main characters. This was not my original intention, but I needed some form of being which had some human characteristics to live beneath the ground but have lifestyles and values in complete contrast to that of the worst part of human beings. I didn’t want elves.  Elves have been done. By Tolkien and others. But I preferred them to the idea of fairies (too female gender biased I thought) and dwarves are, in mythological terms and in Tolkien’s world, too materialistic and warrior like. So, as my particular brand of elves are as small as a human thumb, I named them elflings. I suppose a little like a small tree is called a sapling. Nevertheless my elflings are peaceful, serene beings who, like Tolkien’s elves have the power to be immortal, although mine choose not to be.

Like in Tolkien’s story, all that comes to pass in Prophecy of Innocence is the result of something happening in the long forgotten mists of time. There is a sense of history in my book as I studied history for my undergraduate degree and it has always been my favourite subject. The past is interesting to me in that it has shaped what is happening now. So it is hardly surprising that this is one of the main themes running through  Prophecy of Innocence: that is how actions have far-reaching effects through history. My story is historical and ancient in many ways, just as The Lord of The Rings is. Tolkien based the Rohirrim and the people of Rohan very much on Anglo-Saxon lines. I see my elflings as a race who are very Anglo-Saxon/ medieval or even Celtic in dress and manner although their history goes back further than any of these times. They have an ancient history and folklore despite living in the industrial 18th century. Progress above the ground has not touched them as it has humans.

Of course another main parallel is the fact that my story is essentially a quest story. A quest for the elflings to find the Innocents of which their ancient Prophecy speaks. In my story, the elflings, like the men, hobbits, elves and dwarves in The Lord Of The Rings also have to fight to defend their homeland and they have to go on a journey. As at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, the main group of characters in my book  are also forced to split up into different groups and their separate endeavors have to work to a common outcome. The action in my book swaps between different groups of elflings and different places just as it swaps between different groups of characters and settings in The Lord of the Rings.

Another minor parallel is that there is an object at the centre of each story. A ring of power in Tolkien’s case and a casket containing The Prophecy in mine. Both of which are shrouded in ancient legend and mystery.

Finally, now I have begun work on book two, I have already noticed yet another similarity. Again it is completely unintentional, nevertheless comparisons are bound to be made. The second of the books is subtitled Two Tribes. (I could go the whole hog and call it The Two Tribes but that is not right for the book.) The similarity here is not just in its name as the overall plot of Book 2 has far more in common with the Two Towers than its mere title. In The Two Towers we see the huge battle at Helm’s Deep between Saruman’s army and the Peoples of Middle Earth taking place. And so it is with Prophecy of Innocence: Two Tribes. The second book is where everything becomes much darker, much more sinister, than the first and heralds the dawning of a darker era for the elflings, where they have no choice but to fight a war.

So is Prophecy of Innocence a complete rip off of Lord of the Rings? No! Not at all. But inevitably when you write there are influences which subtly find their way into your work without you even realising it. When I read the Harry Potter books I thought J.K Rowling must have been influenced by Tolkien’s stories too. Either that or she simply had the exact  same cultural, historical and literacy influences to him

Furthermore, my writing is very different to Tolkien’s in style. I do not spend pages and pages describing settings for a start.  Children these days do not have the patience for it!  Furthermore, I would not know where to start creating a language from scratch and, unlike Tolkien, I have simply created a sub-world or under-world to our own rather than a completely new world of my own. Perhaps this has more in common with Rowling than Tolkien, who of course I have been influenced by too, but I would say more with the style of my writing than the story itself.

Do any of us who write ever have a truly original idea for stories or do we simply write our own versions of the stories  we love? Even Tolkien drew his influences from Anglo-Saxon literature such as that of Beowulf, so perhaps it is a completely natural process to take ideas from those things which have held your attention in the past. After all it gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself totally in something which you love and recreate something in a new form for the next generation. To me, this can be no bad thing. I already know that some of the ideas I have for plots for the final 2 books in my trilogy will naturally draw more parallels, with not only Tolkien’s work, but with others already mentioned in my previous blog post “To Write one must Read?”. There is plenty enough about my story however which is original. I have simply paid homage to some of the elements which have infiltrated my cultural subconscious over the years. As I believe we all do during the creative process.

No one would ever hold up Tolkien’s work as unoriginal. I hope my work never will be either but instead that it will find its own place in literary history.

Thanks for reading.

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DePress This

Dolly Parton once said: “If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain”.

I love this saying because I think it completely sums up the idea that to really appreciate something good happening, you have to have suffered in some way first. “No pain, no gain” as they say.

And so I believe it is with depression.

Oh no. The D word. What’s she doing writing about THAT? This is a site dedicated to her writing journey. Surely she can’t be going to write about depression? The imaginary illness which no one really, actually suffers from .

Well yes she is. Because I believe, without  depression, I would never have started writing a novel.

I have debated for a long time whether or not to blog about, what still seems to be a, taboo subject. However, recently reading two other writers’ blogs on the subject, I have found the courage to do so. What I have to say is, in parts, quite personal and so, in many ways, painful to share with, essentially, the whole world. But by not acknowledging it we create even more fear. I also hope that what I have to say here is helpful and hopeful for others. You don’t have to agree with what I say, I write from only my own experience. The nature of depression is after all, as with most things associated with humans, an individual experience.

As I say, if I hadn’t suffered from depression I don’t think I would ever have started writing my novel.  Now I am not saying that when a person is in the vice-like, debilitating state which depression can hold you in that they suddenly find inspiration and begin writing and creating wonderful, poetic stories, songs or whatever else. But, and I can only speak from my own experience, I have found that the mental state depression can put you in leads to an awful lot of introspection and heightens certain neural pathways which in turn has led to creativity.

I have read, and hold the belief, that creative people are more likely to suffer from depression and other forms of mental illness. However, I can’t help but wonder if it is depressive people who tend to be more creative because of this introspection which forms part of the illness. A chicken and egg situation if ever there was one. Does our nurturing and environment and genes make us creative, and so more prone to depressive episodes, or do these factors make us depressed and so more creative?

Again I can only speak for myself. I consider, with hindsight, I have always been quite a depressed, inward looking, deep-thinking person. From a very young age. I always felt different and as though I didn’t belong to society. These feelings have never left me. I don’t think I was born massively creative, I think I needed an outlet for my thoughts. Some people write songs, some paint or draw, some become comedians, some people act and others write. I chose writing. It started with diary writing. I have religiously kept diaries  from when I was around 16 years old. I still have them all. I have notebooks full of random thoughts, poems, musings. No one but I has ever seen them but they are there and they give me a giggle or lead me to shed a tear from time to time.They are also there because I always held belief that one day I would write an autobiography or my memoirs. As my memory is shocking for remembering details  I have  had to keep them for this reason.

I have found that when I am in  a low or a more depressed mental state, I invariably write more in my diary, I write more in my notebooks. Yes it may be maudlin, but it’s often far better, far more poetic than anything I write when I am feeling great. But no one wants to read maudlin autobiographical prose or poetry. So how does this help me write a book which I am going to expect children to read? Well allow me to explain.

I am lucky enough to have only suffered one really debilitating depressive episode. It was 4 years ago and it was the most horrendous time in my life. (Is that too dramatic? Horrendous? No I don’t think so. It was a completely confusing, bewildering time for me and so far, the worst few months of my entire life.) I had experienced smaller episodes before and was prescribed medication (which I  tried but due to awful side effects of uncontrollable rage, did not take any more of.) However, I had experienced nothing like this episode. An episode whereby, for the first time in my life, I actually thought I would rather die than endure what life had to offer. (And if you had known me at the time you would have said “And what on earth have you got to be depressed about?” You would say that now. In fact we could say it to everyone in western society because, let’s face it, our first world problems are so trivial in comparison to the everyday struggle for survival of our third world counterparts. But thoughts on this could form a whole book, let alone a blog post.)

Anyhow, during this particular episode I didn’t attempt suicide. I certainly thought about it. A lot. I even stood on top of a bridge overlooking  a very busy road once and imagined jumping. Now I have a terrible  fear of heights so I can’t have been right to have stood so close to the edge looking down! I think what stopped me going through to the full act of attempting suicide in any form was down to the fact that I had some extremely insightful colleagues at work who showed me a doctor’s surgery door before I got to that point. Nevertheless, I suffered from awful anxiety to the point I couldn’t go out of my house at times and I had to take some time off work. When I was in this  really depressed state I did nothing. Nothing at all. Other than cry a lot and hate myself. I didn’t write about it, I  certainly didn’t keep my diary. I couldn’t find joy in anything. Not even food or drinking. I remember the doctor asking me if I’d been drinking alcohol (as obviously it is a depressant and they advise you not to drink ) and replying that I wished I could enjoy a glass of wine, but I couldn’t even do that. I lost half a stone in weight in the space of about a month and I woke every morning at 4 am and could not sleep again. The more I felt like this, the more I hated myself for feeling like this and for being so weak. A vicious cycle had begun.

If you have never suffered, this is what depression is like. There is no joy. The world is dark, even on the sunniest of days. You cannot stand to be around yourself which is why you want to die because how else do you escape your own thoughts? You feel completely alone and isolated. You don’t want to be alone because you know if you are alone the irrational thoughts will race around your head uncontrollably. But because you don’t want to inflict yourself on others,you don’t, and so you feel even more lonely. The best way I can describe it is as though your mind is detached from your body. I felt as though I was floating above my body and watching my life happen rather than participating in it. It is the oddest, most scary sensation to endure. For endure is all you can do. Or at least that is how it feels.

Depression is not getting up on a Monday morning and feeling a bit down about the fact you have to go to work. This is so often how those who have never had the misfortune to encounter depression think of it. “Well we all get down, don’t we? You just have to get over it.” Yes you do have to try to get over it but someone telling you to get over it won’t help you get over it.

So how did I turn this wholly negative experience into something positive and ultimately life changing. How did I get over it?

Firstly I took the Prozac prescribed. Yep I felt like I would be branded ‘mental’ but so what?  After about five or six weeks, the medication started to kick in. I began to read again and tried to understand what had happened to me. Then I received some counselling and most importantly signed up to an online CBT course and stuck to it.  To cut a long story short I identified my triggers and set about changing and taking control of the aspects of my life which I felt I had no control over and eventually went back to work. I have, thankfully, not suffered a massive bout of depression since. However I still get nervous that I may suffer again in the future. I am still a very introspective person and I have all too frequent occasions when I have an overwhelming fear of life and an overwhelming urge to disappear into a black hole. But I have learned to live with this particular personality trait of mine.

So the point of this blog, as it is about my writing journey, is what?

Well it is to say that since that one awful period I have found something new to keep really awful depressive episodes, like the one of four years ago, at bay. And that thing is writing my trilogy. Because the absolutely great thing about writing a fantasy book is the fact it provides me with a total escape. For me it provides more escapism than actually reading, more escapism than watching television and sometimes, when the world you live in seems to be falling apart or  you feel you cannot cope with it, then a parallel world in which  you can totally immerse yourself and have complete control is, for me at least, the best form of medication I have found. Aside from the fact the act of writing can immerse you far from the madding crowd, the fact I now have something to aim for – a goal – is what is probably the main medicinal benefit.

Although I didn’t start writing Prophecy of Innocence when I was in the grip of, or even recovering from the major depressive episode, it was another smaller, near episode – about  2 years ago – which spurred me on to really continuing with the project I had already very loosely started. I felt the symptoms of anxiety and the loss of control creep up on me after a particularly stressful month in my life. I could feel I was heading towards the deep abyss of depression and I knew I needed to do something to get out of it. I knew what had triggered it and because of my CBT and counselling from 2009 I also knew I had to find something to keep the black dog at bay. Depression is often summed up by a feeling of loss of control over one or many aspects of your life. What had gone wrong was out of my control and so I felt I needed to regain control. But I had to find something else which I could control. So writing a novel it was.

I took myself off to the depths of Scotland where I spent a long weekend on my own writing and gathering inspiration from the landscape. Once I started I couldn’t stop. And although I still felt sad, the feelings of anxiety and fearfulness which had started to creep up on me, began to disappear. I had found something new to aim for and I enjoyed it. I had hope.  I wasn’t depressed. I had escaped it because I could obtain joy from something again.

As a result of all this I consider my tendency towards depressive episodes a positive thing in may ways. When I’m feeling low  I can look inward and feel things far more acutely than at other times. I can then take these acute feelings and turn them into thoughts and words I wouldn’t normally be able to articulate. I am not saying for one second, I would ever want to go through what I went through in 2009 but I am glad now it happened. I grew from the experience and learned about my triggers and how to deal with them.

If I hadn’t gone to the bottom I’d never have had to climb out to reach the top. If I hadn’t had the  rain, I definitely wouldn’t have the rainbow now.

Life for most people is a mental struggle. For those who suffer from depression it is more of a struggle. But it can be embraced, if you know how to control it. And I have learned that it is me who controls my depression, not the other way round. What I would say to anyone who suffers from depression is TALK about it, if you can. although I know this is often the most difficult thing to do. It was and still is for me. Try and TELL someone, anyone how you feel, especially if you feel suicidal. Get medication and do something positive to change whatever it is you feel you lack control over.

If you had diabetes you would take your insulin and manage it. Depression is a mental illness which thankfully can be controlled. It is possible to live with it. It is possible to find the rainbow after the rain.

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Back on the Write Track

Finally I am back to actually writing.

Yes, gone are the long spring and summer months of editing and formatting… and editing some more. Book 1 of Prophecy of Innocence is now with some of  my beta readers and will be winging its way to a couple more in due course. And so while I await their feedback I am now free to knuckle down to the writing of Book 2.  However this time I am writing with all the knowledge I have acquired over the past year whilst I was editing and so it feels very different this time around.

Firstly it’s extremely refreshing and liberating as I got so used to editing,  I had forgotten what actually creating something from scratch was like! With writing I just get to write the thoughts and main ideas floating round in my head onto the page. It doesn’t matter entirely if they are not in order or what verbs or adjectives I use. It doesn’t matter if I repeat the same word three times because I know I can go back later and change it. With writing I can simply concentrate on creation. Secondly this time round is different as  I am bringing established characters back to life after they have had a little holiday, rather than writing them from scratch. This time I get to build on them and develop their characteristics further. Not only that but this time  I get to unleash some real bad guys;  some really nasty, sinister pieces of work – because Book 1 was all a bit ‘nice’ in many ways. Thirdly this time is different because I feel I am better at writing. I have learned so much that I know this first draft will (hopefully) need a lot less work when I come to edit it than Book 1 did. I know how to show rather than tell for a start!

In other ways Book 2 is proving to be much more challenging. This is not necessarily a negative thing but there are certain aspects I am finding much more difficult and which have given me a bit of a headache. To begin with, I have lost the naivety I had when I was writing Book 1. I hadn’t read any writing blogs 2 years ago when I first started writing. I just wrote. Now I have all this advice and dos and don’ts floating around my head.  Secondly, with Book 1, I was creating a world and building up from a start point.  From a blank page. Now I have to constantly refer back and ensure there is continuity in plot and characters and spelling of all the stupidly ridiculous names I have created in Book 1. (My own fault I shouldn’t have played around with language so much!) Book 2 is also more challenging because I have to keep Book 3 in mind  as well and know where I am heading and how they will link together.  With Book 1 it was only forward looking. With Book 2 I have had to reintroduce characters , bearing in mind that when the books are finally published some readers may have read Book 1 but others will not have and they may read Book 2 first. The challenge here is to write so as to remind readers of the characters and plot of Book 1 without boring them, but also to ensure new readers would have enough information to understand what had gone before. A tricky balancing act.

Despite the challenges though, I am very much enjoying being back to writing. After all, this is the fun part: Creating something new, moulding it from nothing but your own imagination and discovering the unexpected and surprising things the characters do.  Happily, I can keep on this track until Book 1 is returned to me when it will be back to editing and formatting ready for publication.

This writing journey does not happen on a straight path. Oh no. The road to publishing is beset with  many twists, turns and forks in the road. And right now, I am very much enjoying the particular path I am on.

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