Making Waves when writing a novel
Recently I have been reading through a novel which I wrote twenty years ago. I had it scanned by Lynn Anderson to make sure I was formatting the final copy as it appeared when published, prior to uploading to Amazon as an e-book. I am dismayed at the number of exclamation marks and hyphens I used then and I have deleted several. I find it difficult to judge my own work, but apart from the superfluous punctuation, I still like this story as well as many I have written since, and better than some which were limited by the publisher’s stipulation of word length.
When I wrote Fairlyden I had stumbled my way through four short romance novels for the Hale Rainbow Romance Series. Then Amstrad computers arrived, a great benefit to a none typist, and I yearned to write a longer novel. I had no publisher, no agent and no deadlines or guidelines, and I didn’t know any other writers. Remember there was no internet. I had not heard of the RNA and in any case they did not hold annual Conferences in various parts of the country as they do now. I began to write the kind of story I liked to read, set in 1850 but using the only background I knew much about – farming. It took a long time but it gave me a great deal of satisfaction, even though I had no idea whether anyone would ever read it. In retrospect I believe I could have ended it about three quarters of the way through but even then I wanted to continue the story of the family I had created.
Using the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book I selected an agency at random. The person who replied said it was a good story but needed a lot of work and they did not have time to take it on. I chose another single person agency (for her Scottish name). She did not do editing but she read it and sent it to a publisher. Lady Luck was at my side. They wanted to buy it and sent me a contract for it and the three follow on novels which were still in my head. Most publishers like to know a writer has more than one book to build on. The editor then sent me three pages of questions, comments and suggestions – one of which I have found invaluable. Apparently readers do not like to be confronted with pages of closely written text so wherever I had long passages I was advised to convert it to speech or break it up in some other way, giving more white space; this looks less daunting to the reader. I also discovered speech moves the story along faster.
Many years later I attended a talk on writing. The speaker said writers should create waves in a novel to keep the reader’s interest. Reading Fairlyden now I realise I subconsciously created a tsunami, plus a storm or two. I can scarcely believe I created such nasty characters, or some of the sad scenes, but hopefully I have enough happy scenes to compensate and uplift. I am still learning something new with every book I write.
If any of you have a Kindle and feel like reading this story please remember you can download it for free on 1st and 2nd of April 2012. I shall be interested to hear if you feel it is too stormy, or if I should have ended it earlier. You can read the blurb for it on Amazon or on my personal blog at gwenkirkwood.blogspot.co.uk.