Saturday, 18 May 2013
THE DROWNING BLOG TOUR: Making It Up As I Go Along
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I wrote ‘Numbers’ in blissful ignorance. I knew nothing about anything – I simply told myself a story. When I started I had my main characters, a beginning and an end, but no idea how to get from one to the other. I didn't write any of it down in a plan. I held it all in my head, started writing and made it up as I went along. Nothing fancy, no flashbacks or dual narratives. Just the story of a girl with a mind-blowing gift - the ability to see death dates.
‘The Chaos’ was more complicated. I wrote the whole story from Adam’s point of view and then my editor, Imogen Cooper of Chicken House, asked me to try writing it all from another character, Sarah’s point of view. ‘But,’ I choked, ‘that would mean writing the whole thing again! And it would be a completely different story!’
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Try it. Have a cookie.’
With ‘Infinity’, I decided to make things more difficult by continuing my dual narrative, but also swapping various gifts and curses between characters. I also panicked, and started writing too early, before I’d got things straight in my head. The first draft was pants, and so was the second and third. I ended up re-writing the whole thing five or six times. It was such a mess I needed two editors to sort it out. As the print deadline hurtled towards me, I was still having heated discussions with Imogen and Rachel Leyshon about the ending. Aaargh. I delivered it on time (just) and I’m really proud of the book, but my confidence as a writer was at an all time low.
Never again, I thought.
I’m never going to write another book.
Which mellowed in time to I’m never going to write another book that way again.
And so … ‘The Drowning’. This time things have been very different. For a start I asked for a sabbatical from my day job, so I had a whole year to concentrate on writing. Bliss. More time, less pressure. I also discussed the book at a very early stage with Imogen. We had a session looking at the main themes and how they might play out over three sections (I love the simplicity of thinking about a beginning, a middle and an end.) I wrote the first section and we reviewed it together with some BIG sheets of paper and coloured pens. I wrote the middle section and got a bit stuck and Imogen introduced the idea of a book map to me, which is basically a table, plotting themes against chapters. I can’t tell you how tedious it is to do a book map, but, irritatingly, it does help you to see the wood for the trees. It took me a long time to get to grips with Rob – the nature of him, how he would appear to Carl, why he was there and how his role would develop. Some of the key themes and ideas didn't emerge until the second draft; domestic violence, the real role of water within the book. Sometimes I felt properly stupid – why does it take me so long to see things, to understand? But writing The Drowning wasn't traumatic, or painful. It was challenging and interesting, as is Imogen Cooper, the amazing editor who has taught me so much.
And that is the end of the blog tour! If you haven't already, please do check out the other stops that have been on the tour. You can buy a copy of The Drowning using the link to The Book Depository (above).
18 year old book blogger who aspires to work in journalism and/or publishing, and dreams of one day seeing her own work on bookshelves around the world. Amber has been running The Mile Long Bookshelf single-handedly since 2009.