I know the rules, but …

Mean Streets © Jacqui Jay Grafton

Six months ago, I started writing Circles of Confusion. I had a very clear picture in my mind of my three main characters and how their little drama would play out. I read more than one hundred books every year, I have a degree in English Language and a fairly active (some would say over-active) imagination. What could go wrong?

Well, nothing actually went wrong. It just changed.

As soon as I began to commit my characters to Pages in my computer, they behaved differently to the way I wanted them to. Like the ballerina in the Red Shoes, my fingers would set off in an entirely different direction to the one I intended. More characters appeared and began to put in their tuppence worth. My beautiful, innocent heroine turned into a dysfunctional sociopath and no amount of persuasion by me could set her feet on a different path.

A backstory was required to explain why she was such an utter cow, so flashbacks became a thing. I joined an online writing forum/thingy and learnt that using the first person, present tense was maybe not the best way to write a first novel. Oops, too late! I learnt about comma splices, part sentences and passive voice – all quite big No-Nos in their own, quiet way. Yep, got lots of them.

So, three chapters in, after our wayward young woman had got herself into a whole heap of trouble (nothing to do with me!) I went back to the beginning and started again. I paid great attention to all the No-Nos and punctiliously observed all the rules I’d been reading about. One chapter into the new version and – Guess what? – she’d become so boring I unfriended her on Facebook.

Back to the beginning again and, this time, I gave her free rein to go in whatever direction she chose, in any way that took her fancy. Comma splices, part sentences, passive voice and any other rule she chooses to bend – she’s off like a greyhound from the starting blocks and God knows what trouble she’ll get herself into.

I guarantee one thing, though – she won’t be boring.

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