It is said that everyone has a novel in them if you look deep enough. We all have a tale to tell and all we need is the time to let it out.
I have time and a lifelong ambition to write a book and so, taking comfort from the fact that Mary Wesley was 70 before she published her first novel, I have decided to have a go.
I have been at it for about five months and to start with I was terribly circumspect about who I mentioned it to. What if they laugh? What if I never finish and everyone knows I have failed? What if it’s rubbish? I told my husband and a couple of others. Their reaction was pleasingly favourable and gradually I have leaked it out to a few more people. And now I have decided to tell the world. After all, what harm can it do!
Until you start, you have no idea how it’s going to work for you. I had seen both Kate Atkinson and Lionel Shriver speak about their writing methods. Lionel Shriver has the whole story plotted out before she begins and then just writes the story down. Kate Atkinson starts with characters and sees where they take her with no particular plot in mind at the outset.
I had had a couple of ideas for stories but had no idea how to make them into something like a novel. And then one day I struck upon something new and just began writing. It turns out that I am more in the Atkinson school than the Shriver. Things just seem to happen. It’s really exciting – almost like a reading a book rather than writing one.
Now that I have fessed up to my activities you can expect to hear more about it but today, I have been thinking about the difficulty of naming characters. That the name says a lot about the character before you know anything else is obvious. Tarquin is going to be a different kettle of fish to Sapphire. But it’s more complicated than that. I know lots of people. It is hard to think of a name and not associate it with its namesake. So I have been looking for completely virgin names. I find myself scanning my bookshelves for inspiration. A Christian name filched from here, a surname from there. It’s a bit like naming a child ( although not nearly so important of course!)
Now that most of my characters have names I feel like I am getting to know them. I should do by now – I’ve written 34,000 words. I’m protective of the ones that I like, gently mocking of the more risible ones and enjoy metaphorically spitting at the baddies. Their names are now a part of them just as Imogen is a part of me. And some of them do share names with people that I know but can I say right now for the avoidance of doubt, they are all products of my imagination?!
I don’t know if I’ll ever finish and I think it’s highly unlikely that anyone will ever read it but at least I will be able to tell myself that I had a go and after all, having a go is what life should be all about. So watch this space!