Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Looking Back - Looking Forward

I'm a great believer in never deleting anything one has written. Even if it was rubbish, we learned something from writing it.

I've often dusted off old ideas and reused them. This has led to one short story sale and at least one novel sale.

The other day I was looking at something else I could dust off, and maybe just put up on Kindle. I was reminded of a novel I wrote in my first year doing NaNoWriMo. It was called The Cunning Woman and was an Elizabethan murder mystery, with a heroine called Kate Hepburn. I remember my late lamented pal, Neil Marr* of BeWrite Books ringing all the way from France to tell me (amongst other things) that I'd never get away with a heroine called Katherine Hepburn as it was too gimmicky. At the time I thought he was wrong, and told him I could never change the heroine's name. It was the one I'd chosen for her and therefore sacrosanct. Yes folks, I was that annoying newbie writer who thought I knew it all.

Last week I thought maybe it was time I listened to Neil's advice, and decided that I could dust off the book and change the heroine's first name to Jane. Jane Hepburn sounds suitably Elizabethan, doesn't it?

So I found the original file. Not only was most of it missing from Chapter 15 onwards (and I have no idea where the ending is!), but the writing was absolutely dire. I don't mean E.L. James dire. I could still string a grammatical sentence together. But it was dry, ponderous and very author-ish. I don't think I'd heard of dialogue in those days! I was clearly writing as I thought a writer should write, but not writing from the heart. I had not found my voice, and I imagine I was writing in the voice of what I thought was a real writer. But I am a real writer now; someone who writes in her own unique style.

There is no way I can just dust the novel off. It would take me too long to unpick it all. It would be much quicker to start all over again, using the more reader friendly style I've found for myself with my more successful books.

Then I asked myself 'Do I want to start all over again?' Surely what I should be doing is moving forward with new ideas, not back to old ones. Of course that could just be an excuse I'm making to myself because the job is such a big 'un. So The Cunning Woman has been put back in mothballs and left in a cool dark place to fester. Call me superstitious but I still won't delete it.

The title does survive, however, in my Bobbie Blandford books.  The main pub in the town of Stony End is called The Cunning Woman.

*Neil Marr sadly passed away a few months ago. I miss his sage advice and his unique sense of humour. He encouraged and inspired me and so many others on the BeWrite site, becoming a part of our family when he shared in the joy of our children's weddings and the birth of our grandchildren.

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