Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Ye Olde Planning - Then and Now

Back when I was a wee nipper of but... 23(?) I started work on His Wicked Shadow. It wasn't called that then, and it was a very different book.

It seems a long time ago, and although it wasn't my first attempt at a novel (we aren't talking about that), it was the first one I wrote after I had realised that I knew nothing and it would probably be rubbish. That's a big thing to learn, and it was a turning point in both my career and my writing style. By admitting to myself that I couldn't write, and deciding to learn how, I was committing myself to future years of try, try, trying, and then trying again. I wanted to be a writer, and I wanted to do it properly.

I read articles and books on techniques, to do and not to do lists, I drafted, re-drafted, made new friends and dented my pride even more. And when I was looking on an old hard drive for something completely unrelated a few weeks ago, I found this:

James was being an absolute bastard.
A husky was also there.
I am overcome by nostalgia. This is one of my chapter plans from the very early days, when what is now the middle of the book was the beginning.

In the four intervening years I have discovered what many people have discovered before me. There isn't a definitive way to write a good novel, and it's a hard slog. But admitting my own hideous crapness was the first step along the road to where I am now. I'm currently working on what will hopefully be my third complete novel - and I still have no idea how to do it. There's a vote of confidence for you! It's one of the hardest things I've ever done, and it's mostly arse-on-chair, head-in-hands repetition. Whether that's paid off, I leave to your judgement. But it's also the best thing I've ever done, and as addictive as hummus.

And if you are intrigued by how this scene turned out in the end, here's a little preview...

‘I shouldn’t be here,’ I murmured, letting him pull me towards his chest, and push me gently back against the wall, imprisoned by his body and his touch.
‘Who would say anything?’ he whispered, his breath catching the sheen of moisture on my neck as he leaned towards me. ‘I’m a family friend. An old family friend.’
We both knew he was wrong, that I’d be ruined if anyone happened upon us, but neither of us cared. We hadn’t cared before, and it was the recollection of that which brought me back down to earth.
‘No. I can’t. You can’t.’ I put my hands between us on his chest and pushed him away. ‘Not again.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘It happened before. God, you really did forget.’
‘The kiss?’
‘It was more than a kiss.’ I burned crimson with shame as I said it. I couldn’t tell him how much it had meant to me, or how broken I had felt when he left me. I had some pride.
‘You’re right, it was more. It was… unexpected. Surprising. But above all, wonderful.’ He looked at me with an intensity that made me believe him, or at least want to believe him. He leaned towards me again, gently restraining me. If I’d wanted to escape I could have, but to my shame, I didn’t. I could hear his ragged breathing, and stared at his mouth, slowly coming closer to mine.
‘But then you left,’ I said.
I drew myself up to my full height in an effort to claw my dignity back. He moved his face away from mine and stared at me.
‘So I did.’
‘Without a word. Without anything. And you’d told me you’d call the next day. How am I supposed to trust you?’
James turned away from me then to lean on the rails that looked out over the gardens, a mottled navy in the cloudy night. He was quiet and his shoulders were hunched. I almost stepped forward to comfort him; his silhouette was that of a broken man.
His voice was quiet, so quiet I strained to hear him over the dull thrum of the music from the ball.
‘No,’ he repeated. ‘You were right. You shouldn’t be here.’


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