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.

Finding new authors: Kit de Waal

Over a period of many years, I have accrued quite a list of favourite authors from a wide variety of genres. Sometimes, it can be quite a long wait before new novels appear and I am always on the look-out for new writers to add to my list. It doesn’t happen very often, but, just this week I discovered Kit de Waal and have already devoured two of her books.

de Waal has an interesting background in that she identifies as British/Irish, having been brought up by an Irish mother and an African-Caribbean bus driver father in Birmingham among the Irish community, and has recalled: “We were the only black children at the Irish Community Centre and the only ones with a white mother at the West Indian Social Club.”

The books I have read so far, My Name is Leon and The Trick to Time, are different to my usual genres. Reading the initial chapters, they seem quite cosy (usually anathema to me) but build slowly and surely to an ending which is both surprising and entirely logical. Sounds odd? Read them. You won’t be disappointed. Click the links for full synopsis and reviews.

She’s definitely on my list!

Circles of Confusion

Writing your first book at the age of 76 can be quite scary. Today, I hit the 20,000 word mark with Circles of Confusion. Here’s where it begins.

1997

There’s a yellow ribbon tied to the handle on the front door, so I walk round the side of the house to go in by the kitchen. Mummy explained to me that I mustn’t use the front door if the ribbon is there. She’s busy and I mustn’t interrupt her. I don’t mind because I like being by myself. I can read a book or practice my writing – and sometimes the biscuit man will be there. I hope he’s there today. Maybe he’ll have Jaffa cakes, he knows they’re my favourite.