I was tagged by the lovely Amanda Saint to write a blog post re: five things about my WIP.
I’ve decided instead to write about five key points on my writing journey, which led to me writing The Single Feather
1) The Letter ‘D’
When I was five I was fearless. One day, I sat down and invented ‘The Doo’s’. They were a family of characters all shaped like the letter ‘D’. I wrote a story involving a train journey (nothing happened) and painted pictures to go with the text. My mum cut it up, and made it into a book, stapling it all together. My parents sent it off to the publisher Hamlyn and a few weeks later a letter arrived FOR ME! Just to have a letter of my own was exciting. They said they enjoyed reading it, and especially liked the pictures but were sorry they couldn’t publish it.
I carried on writing stories, and won prizes at school for creative and essay writing. I had my first article published at seventeen and was all set to study English Literature at university when disaster happened , I was involved in an accident and emerged with ‘life changing injuries’. I knew my life had suddenly got more difficult, so rather than focusing on an Arts degree, I studied Health and Social Care, followed by various professional qualifications. I worked for a social services department as I thought work = independence.
2) The Space Under my Bed
Ten years after the accident, my disability was getting worse and for a long period I was unwell. I ended up retiring (early) from my job, and amongst other things, lost my home. I found myself in a damp flat with poor access, and loud neighbours, but despite the hardship, I started to write again . At first, it was just for me, and then later on I was asked to write an article about a family friend who’d been a pioneer in her field of work, this was for The Guardian’s ‘Other Lives’ section. Seeing my name in print again encouraged me to start writing a book. I had an idea about what I wanted to write, but made no plans before starting to write. Half-way through, I realised I had lost my way, I didn’t care for my characters or believe in my story. Upset, the book, went into a crate and was stored under my bed.
3) Permission to Write,
As the years passed, I thought more about why the story under my bed hadn’t worked. I had resisted writing about disability, but when times changed and life became more uncertain and in some cases perilous for people with disabilities, I started to consider it more as an option. I decided rather than launching into a book, like last time, I would do a novel writing course *. By this stage, my protagonist had a name, Rachel. On this course, I gave myself the permission to write about a disabled character.
At first I just had my protagonist. Bit by bit, a plot started to emerge. It was like a jigsaw. Some pieces looked like they would fit, but didn’t, while other pieces fell into place easily. I was still assembling the jigsaw as I started to write, and even when I had my first draft, I knew there were gaps that needed to be filled. Many drafts later, the story emerged and unlike the one under my bed, I believed in my characters and the plot. It was almost like the story I had to write.
Disabled people as a group are currently being demonized in the press, and instances of verbal and physical assault against disabled people are rising, so politics, with a small ‘p’ does play it’s part in TSF. However, ultimately it’s a story of Rachel, trying to make her way in the world, who has secrets she’d rather keep hidden, who has faced challenges in her past she’d also like to hide. Problem is, she’s trying to fit in with a group of new people, and all is not what it seems, some characters have their own secrets, some have an agenda and some who are critical and argumentative from the start. There is also an ongoing threat, of a return to the life and conditions she’d escaped from…
My thanks again to Amanda. Follow her on Twitter (@saintlywriter) and learn more about her creative writing retreats and much more at http://www.retreatwest.co.uk/
For information about the novel and creative writing courses I took go to http://www.writingclasses.co.uk/