Thursday, 7 August 2014

A Reluctant Blog Post by Tracy Alexander

So, it’s less than twelve hours until my blog on ABBA is due and I’ve given it no thought because:

It’s sunny.

It’s the holidays.

I only have until 31st October to finish my book.

It’s my niece’s birthday and I had to buy her a present.

My mum needs a cataract operation and I spent ages on the phone sorting it out.

There were blackberries begging to be picked.

It took 45 minutes to cycle to where the blackberries were waiting to be picked.

My son is in Bangkok, trying to get to Sydney but the flight has been delayed 26 hours and counting.

It’s still sunny.

My daughter has just come home from a day’s shopping in Bath with her friend.

She bought a camera.

I have annoyed her by saying she should have bought it from a ‘proper’ shop in case it goes wrong.

I’m hungry.

I have no insights worth sharing.

But, I have a commitment so please find below a brain dump of all the things that I’m finding difficult, writing wise:

In a sequel, how much of the earlier story do you need to put in? It’s hard to judge. Too much will bore the reader who already knows the background, too little and it won’t make sense to the disobedient reader approaching them in the wrong order.

How do I refer to my character given that she has several pseudonyms? I keep putting in aka and annoying myself.

I have chosen a structure that alternates between current day and several years ago. Do I need to give the chapters headings to help the reader or shall I assume they are capable of keeping up with me?

I set the first book in Bristol, where I live. The second is set in Leeds. It seemed a good idea as I went to university there, but when I looked at a street map I realised my memory is unreliable. Does it matter?

In between fretting about the plot, I am conscious that I should be thinking about publicity for the first book, out in November. Even the word makes me feel like watching Breaking Bad and eating dark chocolate with dried cranberries. Does the fact that it’s the holidays mean I can shelve those thoughts until September? (Do any writers relish the idea of ‘selling’ their books?)

My character has a trip to Yemen. I have read relevant blogs and spent far too much time on trip advisor. As the work is fiction, how authentic must it be? Do I need to find someone who has been there to check what I’ve written?

(I am enjoying asking all these questions. It’s like having an imaginary friend.)

I have endlessly googled bomb-making, and similar, will there be a knock on my door one day? Do other authors erase their search history?

Would you mind if I stopped now, and went to fry the turkey strips? (I know, what possessed me to buy them?)


Kelly McKain said...

I enjoyed this snapshot of your mind, Tracy! I know what you mean about search - when I was making a cover for my e-book i put teen girls sexy underwear or something as was looking for cover images, then felt I would have to erase not just my search but my eyes too!!
Enjoy having done your post! Kellyx

Sheena Wilkinson said...

Great post. I think we all obsess about those things. In my WIP one of my narrators changes his identity in the fourth chapter -- endless agonising over how I refer to him in the chapter headings. As for the holiday thing, I have been a teacher for nineteen years and a full-time writer for one. It's hard to reprogram my brain and tell it that no, it is actually NOT holidays. In fact, that's just given me an idea for my next ABBA post next week. So thanks and good luck with the WIP! And Kelly -- yes; we've all searched for things in the noble cause of literature that we'd really rather nobody knew about!

Richard said...

I loved the brain-dump, Tracy.

As a reader I hate sequel info-dumps almost as much when reading out of order as when reading in-order. More established writers seem to do it somewhat painlessly, but I've been reading a lot of first and second novels recently and some of them are excruciating. It seems to be a difficult skill to learn. Why does nobody put a "story so far" chapter at the beginning that we could skim-read and be sure that we were not missing any new story?

With regards to a jumping storyline, personally, I would prefer a hint in the chapter titling.

With research, I think it depends on your audience and the number of them you are willing to have experience a discord. I was reading an exceptionally well researched book by a successful writer a while back. It was a real joy to read and you knew you could trust every detail in it. Since it was set in the Middle Ages, a lot of the passage of time was flagged by the phases of the moon. At one point in the book, some time after a new moon, the protagonist went out before dawn and saw a crescent moon. It stopped me dead. A crescent moon seen at dawn is waning, so it had been 25 odd days since the last time-check. Maybe it had; the plot-line was ambiguous, but it certainly felt like a slip. If it was a mistake, it was the only one, and one so small that very, very few readers would catch it, let alone be thrown by it.

I can't help thinking that deleting the browser history looks more suspicious. GCHQ has your number anyway.

Compromise: grab the chocolate and think about publicity. ;-)

Ann Turnbull said...

Yes, I enjoyed this too. It all felt so familiar. And hey, you've done it now! Why don't you reward yourself with a weekend in Leeds if that's feasible? It would inspire you and make you feel more confident about the story.

Ann Turnbull said...

I agree with Richard about time changes in the story. As a reader I like help! I'd put the chapter headings in. But prefer as little back story as possible in the sequel.