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Month: March 2013

The long and dusty middle

Middles are hard.
Not body middles, not mine anyway. I had a baby and it went all mushy. No sign of muscle tone anywhere. Beckham’s looks hard, but his brain’s mushy. But, as they say, I digress. The middle of stories I mean. Writing the middle of a novel is much more hard work than writing the beginning and I suspect, if you ever get there, it gets easier again at the end.
You know the part in those old Western films where the wagons roll to the top of a ridge and stretched out before them is Death Valley, miles and miles of dry sand and rock. That’s the middle. No end in sight, no guarantee that they will reach the other side, no water, bad men in black hats. That’s the middle. An endless slog that will test them to the limit, so far that some will never make it. Yep, the middle.
I think it’s different when you’re reading. Stuff happens in the middle that you want to know about – assuming the beginning has been good enough to get you there. The trouble is when you’re writing, when I’m writing (note the inappropriate use of the second person there, this could be a personal thing, me alone, with my own personal problem with middles, rather than a universal shared problem), is that you/I know what is going to happen in the middle. All that’s left to do is write it. And I’m a completer finisher and in a novel the middle is a long, long way from the finish.
‘Skip to the end’ someone said. I can’t do that! The story must unroll in my mind. I have to go with the ups and downs. I can write notes for future scenes, but I, personally, have to write it as it happens. Plus, when I do get to the end, I need to know that it’s the end, of the first draft at least.
So, here I am, pushing on word by word, slow chapter by slow chapter, with more perspiration than inspiration, painfully through the middle. Wish me luck.

A kick up the whatsit from Transworld and Cath Staincliffe

Last night I was lucky enough to attend a Transworld event marking the launch of Cath Staincliffe’s new Scott & Bailey novel ‘Bleed Like Me’. It was a great opportunity to meet the real people who work in publishing and discover that they are not the money-obsessed naysayers nascent writers, like myself, fear exist only to shatter our dreams. They were really rather nice. Furthermore they were genuinely passionate about books and writing and loving every minute of making dreams fly for both writers and readers.

Cath Staincliffe was there to talk about her writing process and career, and specifically about the Scott & Bailey novels. I had been avoiding the books because I assumed that they were re-tellings of the TV series plots. Not so, the first is a prequel to the series and ‘Bleed Like Me’, and the future titles, slot in between the stories told on TV. So, another couple of books to add to the to-read pile.

However, despite having a signed copy of the book in my paws, thanks to last night, I won’t be reading it right away. I’m sure this wasn’t the intention of last night (sorry lovely people), but what I took away with me was the determination to get on with my writing. Cath is an inspiration. Her output is phenomenal and her publishers clearly love her for her professionalism – because that’s what she is a professional who is bloody good at what she does.

I’ve written commercially for years – mastered the structure, written properly formed sentences and paragraphs, targeted to my audience and finished on deadline. So why am I being so airy fairy and insecure about my creative writing? I might not be Cath Staincliffe but I’ll never get anywhere if I don’t get what’s in my head down on paper.

So, thanks Cath for being so gracious and for the book. Thanks Transworld for the meal, the wine, the chat and the murderous cup cakes. I hope you will forgive me if I don’t read the books just yet. I have a few thousand words to write first.