First things first: Happy New Year and I hope you all had a good one!
Next, many apologies for my lengthy silence, which is only partly due to the horrific fact of what happened in the USA on the 20th January. (And has continued to happen ever since – someone take his pen away, please (and his phone too, but at least his tweets just cause outrage and despondency rather than having a concrete, dismaying and potentially lethal effect on the very people he’s sworn to protect.)
Enough of him (only for now – I’m firmly in the ‘never normalise, never accept, never be silent in the face of atrocity’ camp) what have I been writing?
Well, a short story for my crime module is the short answer. I mulled it over and mused about it and finally got a spark of inspiration – the how of the murder. Once that had arrived, the other details kind of fitted themselves into my imagination until I was ready to write.
I’ll have to quickly interrupt myself here – I normally don’t know how my stories will end. I generally come up with a character who, having formed him or herself, then begins to say stuff and do things: all of which colour their personality and lead to the action and conflict that make the story. Often – nearly all the time – the ending of the story comes as a surprise to me, and I have even discovered, as I write, that the guy I’ve been rooting for as hero has turned out to be the villain on one or two occasions!
So the thought of writing a crime story to which I already knew the answer felt exceedingly strange. But it is the only way, I think, to write an honest crime story. You must know the ending and the perpetrator in order to fulfil the requirements of a detective story. Clues must be left for the reader, odd and random instances of happenstance or coincidence must be explicable (even if only becoming so once the grand denouement has taken place) and the crime must not have been committed by a random stranger who never otherwise comes into the narrative. There are more rules, laid out much more eloquently than I can say here, but these are the very basics.
So I thought, as it was my first ever crime story, that I would just write it, letting it be as long as it needed to be. A couple of days later I had 4,560 words and the first draft was done. A bit of tidying up and redrafting made it easier to read, but didn’t vastly reduce the number of words – something of a problem as I only need 1,500 and will lose marks if it’s over 1,650! While I mulled over the problem, I handed the story round to a couple of friends. One of them, handing it back to me, said, ‘I don’t know about making it shorter, but this could be the outline for a novel.’
I took the story home and focused on getting it to the required length, eventually achieving this by making it a story told to someone by my detective. This enabled me to cut through all the detail of post mortem and witness statements, just giving the results, rather than the process. Once the story was down to a manageable 1,700-and something words, I put it aside to mature.
In the meantime, I was on holiday from uni, and had a lot more free time than usual. The suggestion about making the story into a novel drifted back and, this time, took hold.
So I began. I started by expanding each paragraph out into chapters, then found places where more chapters needed to be inserted in order for events to make sense, or to bring characters more authentically to life, or just to pass chronological time in the novel. I rattled through splendidly, getting up to 30,000 words in a mere four weeks, with the whole novel plotted out in rough notes from start to finish. Since uni has been back in, my output has dramatically slowed down, but I am slogging through one to four thousand words a week, and am now up to 50,000, with a target of another 20,000 to get the novel up to an acceptable length. I know what I have to say, and I’ve actually already written the ending, which – so far – I’m very pleased with.
As you’ve probably gathered from this long, rather rambling post, I haven’t been writing here, because I’ve been writing up a storm elsewhere! I have had time to write a new drabble, which I’ve included below, please do let me know if you enjoy it?
Hopefully, the next time I post, I will have a complete first draft of a novel, and will be thinking about trying to get myself an agent or a publisher, depending on which seems to be the easier/ most logical option.
Until then, take care, look after those who need it and stand up to those who need that.
They say I turn men to stone as if that’s a bad thing. They’ve made me into a monster, with snakes for hair and eyes that petrify. But that’s wrong.
It’s a different hardness they experience – you know what I mean. Yes, that.
I was hot. Sexy, daring and willing to do anything at all. That’s the truth of what they saw in my face and it worked on them. every. single. time.
So next time you hear someone talk about the Gorgon’s head, or my supposed ugliness, you just tell them.
You say, ‘No. I know the truth.’