Friday, 7 November 2014

The Other Side of Writing by Tracy Frazzle Alexander

I love being a writer, still walking up, ten years after I wrote my first short story, delighted to find I am published. 

But, the last month has been fraught. So fraught that I offloaded my October blog, and forgot to do this one. It is 8:40 and I am about to share with you, as though it's Writers Anonymous.

In HACKED, the book published by Piccadilly Press yesterday, I casually mentioned, somewhere near the end, that the shadowy figure from the deep web responsible for the almost-tragedy was an eighteen-year old girl whose mother was Welsh and her father Yemeni. It was a whim, in that I could have picked anywhere that the US fly armed drones, so Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, and any European country, as she needed to be of dual heritage.

Anyway, that whim is now a second draft of TURNED, because the publisher was interested to hear her story. It should have been delivered seven days ago but is still a word doc on my computer, because I have been struggling.

TURNED is a circumquel, beginning before and ending after HACKED.

I am guilty of not planning, or planning in such a helicopter fashion that the detail is impossible to see. That has not helped me this time. I can normally wander off to wherever the moment takes me, but as the books are parallel I have to make certain elements fit. This has been tricky. But not the trickiest part.


I was worried that going over the same period of time would be boring for those who had read the first book, so I decided to use a structure where the chapters alternated between the past and the present. All was going quite well until I read aloud to my writing group and watched their faces. I'd been doing that ostrich-thing, kidding myself that it worked when it was in fact confusing. It took a couple of days of riding my bike and baking to summon the courage to deconstruct my 45 000 words and put it back together chronologically. A short feeling of relief followed.

Oh no!

Naively I thought it would all flow, but of course you write differently if you're constantly switching time. The chapters didn't link. 

I emailed the publisher, asking for an extension. The first deadline I've ever missed, and started to rewrite, in a panic.

Back at writing group the faces didn't look much more encouraging.
"Have you actually got to the end yet?" asked Eeyore.
"No," I said, fretfully.
"Just forget rewriting and do the end and come back," she ordered.
I obeyed.
I wrote, I hope, a scorching finale. Allowed myself a small smile.


I am back rewriting. I have three weeks to go. I am worried about the voice, still concerned that there is too much overlap between the books, and eating a gargantuan number of biscuits.



Penny Dolan said...

Sending you huge amounts of encouragement and sympathy, Tracy!

And what a valuable - if sometimes uncomfortable - writing group you have. Reading work aloud to an audience (instead of in your head) can be really useful.

Good wishes!

Sue Purkiss said...

Oh, good luck!

Anonymous said...

Good luck! I'm sure it will all come right in the end. In the meantime, I love the idea of a circumquel!

Lari Don said...

Have confidence in your story. If the story is strong - and it sounds like it is - then all you are trying to do is find the right (clearest?) way to tell it. Best of luck. And also, well done for having the courage to tell people about the Other Side of Writing. Perhaps we sometimes make it sound too easy?

Joan Lennon said...

Oh the bones - the bones! Why do they hide from us like this? I agree with the others - it WILL come right, but in the meantime, you deserve every biscuit available!
(Remember to keep breathing, too.)

Heather Dyer said...

Sending good luck, too - I know this feeling well. Your story may turn out to be other than you expected, but even better...

catdownunder said...

Hang in there! You can do it!

C.J.Busby said...

Aaargh! Haven't we all been there! My advice would be that it's the panic of the deadline that's making it hard to see what to do, because all the time you're thinking about it a voice in your head is saying 'got to sort it SOON, got to sort it SOON, oh God, what if I can't?' So I'd recommend you are really up front with your editor that it needs an extra 3-6 months or whatever you think is acres of time. Once the pressure's off, you may find it falls into place over a week or so of musing/walking and eating biscuits! Lots of sympathy though!