I’ve finished editing my second novel, for now. Of course it’s impossible to finish editing, ever: there’s always more to upgrade and revise and rethink, but I wrote this one, currently titled The Matter with Men, from August to November. It was an exercise to see if I could write within the CWF genre. I read a few commercial women’s fiction novels to start me off and, once I’d created a character who was a little feisty and I’d given her some problems to resolve, I was away. I really enjoyed it.
Many writers make helpful suggestions about when and how one should write, and routine seems to be all-important. Write after breakfast, write before breakfast, write all morning, all night. I have a guaranteed way of making sure I can write a lot, and in a disciplined way – at least I can do this as long as I live in the UK. I write when the weather is bad and go out and find inspiration when the weather is good.
I set my second novel in the South West and researching a setting is really good fun. Driving to Cornwall, across Devon, to Bristol, having lunch on a barge because my main character does, checking out a pub in East Devon, a beach in Barnstaple… is this hard work?
There’s a supermoon tonight, so I’ll be out there, maybe climbing Haytor rock at sunset and taking some photos so that I can internalise it all and use the mood later. I am not naturally good at writing romance but I can do pantheism, then merge the two in my head and later use the moment in my novel.
I recently wrote a scene where my protagonist goes horse riding without the benefit of appropriate sports underwear. Research is essential if I’m to understand the emotions and sensations behind the experience.Now that has to be a good example of suffering for one’s art.
My protagonists are never me. They may occasionally be composites of different people but mostly they are made up and I can always project experiences and ideas or work empathically. It’s easy to bring a thought or an experience back to the computer and then subvert it, apply it or change it and turn it into something entertaining, moving or poignant.
I’ve just started my third novel, which will be set in two cities I know well and that I visit regularly. However, I’ve been walking on Dartmoor this weekend, so I have a scene in mind which will take place on Grimspound.
Based on the experience of trying to invent an acceptable male protagonist in the second novel, I have decided to change my methods completely and create a new and unusual protagonist in the third- (no title yet) – who is completely different, annoying and hugely flawed. I will enjoy working with him and I hope the fun will rub off on my readers.
November has been great so far, both in terms of writing and in terms of good weather, so I have been on the road while the sun shines and making hay, or at least chapters, in the rain. I am lucky to be in touch with a great group of helpful readers who read what I write and who let me know if it works the way I want it to. I have two particular readers whose reading experience is completely diverse: one has an MA in writing, the other seldom reads fiction, so I combine their responses to help me gauge how effective my novel might be to a wider audience.
I belong to a brilliant writing group, which is so mutually helpful: we try out new ideas and it keeps the writing spirit crazy, feisty and humble. All the support and input is invaluable and inspirational and the mischief we create is as volatile as any coven.
Today the weather is good, but I am expecting the weather to turn wintery very soon, so I’ll be out in the fog and the slush and the storms. Then during the cold and the rain, after a quick bowl of soup, I’ll be back on the keyboard while Pushkin the cat snoozes in front of the screen, right in my line of vision. Love it…
Dartmoor painting by Cait Hill