Here she writes about the time she completed her novel The Bad Child.
The Bad Child is finished. Now I’m floating free
I’ve just completed my newest novel The Bad Child, about twelve year old Dee, the misfit in her family, who decides not to speak at all.
Now I’m breathing great sighs of relief and satisfaction. This novel has been a joy to write. To know it has been finished I have to be pleased with it and very sure it’s as perfect as I can make it.
The writing life is cyclic, offering different writing, emotional, inventive challenges at each point in the cycle. Writing a novel is an organic process, born of a glimpse, a thought, a new insight perhaps a year or two before. This could be a line from a book or a newspaper, an overheard conversation, an image that fixes in the mind, a linked memory from childhood. When I have embraced this core idea I cast around start to think, talk, scribble, and dream stories around this core idea in both my waking and sleeping life until it becomes a solid reality in my mind.
At last, into this mass of notes, ideas, research and story-telling, walks a distinctive character with a mind of her own.Then another. And another. These characters begin speaking to each other in different tones and accents, with different agendas and priorities in their lives. At one point I wake up with their conversations in my head.
And somehow out of this inchoate mass of stuff emerges a sense of a beginning, Eventually I manage to write a beginning that locks these characters in their certain time, their certain place, with their certain preoccupations. With my imagination now fully charged, the novel insinuates itself into my daily life, somewhere near the centre. And I write. And write.
Now and then, as I write on, I have to slow down just to check that the story I’m writing today has grown properly out of my yesterday’s prose, and that of the day before, and the week and even the year before.
So, after working for a year or so in this way I find that this self-willed creation begins to move towards its close and I find myself looking for a sense of an ending. Now is the time to slow down again to make the best ending that for this particular the story. If – as I do – you write close to real life, then ending a novel is not easy. The ending has to fit the narrative logic bedded in this story’s organic growth. As well as this, the ending has to imply a new logic, a new organic possibility, a spurt of new life – life beyond the story.
Once the end has been written, it’s time to put on my cap and gown and be my own editor – to check every word, every line, every paragraph for correct meaning, syntax, and spelling. I must check that time, place and characterisation serve the consistency and the dynamism of the story. At this point I usually read the prose out loud to check its that the sound flows.
Now the manuscript is as perfect as I can make it.
In the end, like any intelligent writer, I understand that my novel just cannot be perfect. The story has its own existence inside of me and I am not sufficiently objective to catch every flaw. And, like any intelligent writer, I know that my story needs a skilled, outside editor and proof-reader (not a ‘friendly reader’) before it can go out there into the cold world. This wizard of a person will inevitably pick up snags and flaws that I, with the narrative events printed on my soul, will have missed.
I discovered my own eagle-eyed editor/proof-reader Clive Johnson two books* ago. Since then I’ve realised that once the manuscript been through his capable hands I can proceed with confidence to the further challenges of designing the cover and going through the process onto publication.
Then the book is published and walks out there in the world. For any reader to enjoy
Oh joy! The time has come for me to start floating free again in the outside world, catching gossamer words and images in my mind that will eventually provide me with an organic core for an exciting new novel which will keep me alive and kicking, thinking, imagining and writing for the next eighteen months.
I am realising now that the nature of my floating-free process ensures that each novel is distinct from the others; a different species perhaps. This difference keeps me fascinated and- I hope – my valued readers intrigued.
Below the initial art work in Progress for the cover of The Bad Child which will be out there walking alone in August.
My regular writer’s life blog Life Twice Tasted
Writing at the Maison Bleue