18 April 2011
Ahead of me stretches three weeks of writing, broken up only by Easter and the Royal Wedding (funny, my invitation still hasn’t arrived). Even better, after nearly eighteen months of writer’s block, I finally have a novel fighting to get out of my mind and onto the page.
So, what do I do? Start the book? No, I write a blog, hang the washing out, pop to the supermarket for some butter, make a cup of coffee… Anything but actually sit down and begin.
What’s stopping me?
Not the fear of the blank page. I love the blank page, the adventure it presents as you put down the first word and connect with your story. The thrill as the characters take shape and the tale unfolds, aware you are merely shaping these creations as they develop a life of their own, twisting and turning, growing and changing, taking you with them on the thorny path of their story.
No, this fear is more primal.
It’s the fear of the unknown.
Whenever I begin a new tale, ahead lies a strange, unpredictable and unchartered world. Once the first word is written, there is no return, only the irrevocable pull forward: one more word, one more word, one more word, until you reach the end. Whenever or wherever that might be.
This isn’t the firs time I’ve tried to write The Two Elizabeths. The story first came to me over six years ago. As a great part of the plot features Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, there was a sizeable amount of research to do but even as I ferreted through books and browsed the internet, the story began to unfold before my eyes.
My then agent, however, gave me a piece of advice, which I took.
“Write it like The Da Vinci Code,” she said. “Short chapters, a cliff hanger at the end of each one. It’ll be easy to sell. I’ll get on to it.”
She didn’t. But then, she didn’t manage to sell anything despite endless positive feedback and interest, which is why she is no longer my agent.
Her advice, while commercially sound was entirely wrong, not only for the story, but for me too. While I admire what Dan Brown achieved with The Da Vinci Code, our writing styles could not be more different.
So, although I tried this approach, The Two Elizabeths juddered to a halt after about 10,000 words. Then it lay, disregarded, for several years. I still loved the story. I wanted to write it but fear of failing my idea again, stopped me.
For the next few years I viewed my characters from a distance, watching them dance and play, taunting me from their protective dome, high on a mountain top, completely inaccessible, while I skirted around the outside, watching and waiting, knowing that at some point I would find my way back in and this time it would be correct and I’d be able to capture their tale.
The door finally swung open in January this year. I had my way in. I knew what I had to do. I tweaked the plot, accumulated the extra research and today, I gather my courage around me like a cloak, or perhaps, more suitable for the time, a suit of armour, and re-introduce myself to Isabella Lacey, my protagonist. Together we will begin our journey back in time to Tudor England and the first part of our tale in The Jerusalem Trilogy.
Please come with us, I’ll be blogging about the book as I write it and when I have a substantial chunk I’ll upload it onto the site. In the meantime, if you’re interested, there is a short synopsis in the “Coming Soon” section.
And now, I take my first step…