Monday, 26 August 2019

Planning and Pantsing the subplot in Every Sparrow Falling

Normally when I'm planning a book I'll spend time writing a long outline and then I'll try to write a synopsis and then I'll write a chapter-by-chapter outline. I know some people hate doing this and it would never have been my instinct except that the first book I tried to write failed really badly around half way through because I just had no idea where it was going. The characters didn't take on the 'life of their own' that I had been hoping for. They just wanted to sit around eating burritos and drinking wine. It was really boring (I mean, that lifestyle sounds fine to me, but I don't want to read about other people doing it). So the next time around I decided to get planning.

I still retain the right to pants the plot. I find that if my characters are doing things and going places then they do develop and they start having opinions about my ideas and sometimes they don't want to do the things I had planned for their futures. Fine by me. I'm laid back like that; we can negotiate. Even if it means their destruction, but hey, that's free will for ya.

So it happened with Every Sparrow Falling. It was always going to be Cariad's story and I wrote the whole first draft not giving much thought to anyone else but her. When it was almost finished, however, I knew there was something missing from the story. There were characters who I had loved writing and I wondered if they might have something more to add. So I let them step forward and take the main stage for a time. Brains and Muff changed Cariad's story significantly, to her delight and mine.

Every Sparrow Falling is out on 12th September. You can read more about it here.

Initial reviews have been mostly really positive, and I can see that the readers who have loved it have loved Brains and Muff's story as much I did. It's a relief, because there is an element of Brains and Muff's storyline which I was so unsure about. I can't say what it is as it's a major spoiler but I asked my writing group and beta readers what they thought. They had differing opinions on it but the discussion really helped me to decide what to do. In the end I went with what the characters wanted to do. Writing for me is often the result of an irritating thought, like some kind of flying insect that won't leave me alone until I write it away from myself. Brains and Muff were more helpful than that; turning up in a crisis, bringing soup and offering to hoover the house. So I felt I owed it to them to let them drive their own story in the end. It was difficult, and I don't know how people will react in general, but they're off, with Cariad, out into the world.

Every Sparrow Falling should be in your bookshops on 12th September. Support your local bookshops if you can. You can also pre-order from Amazon. If you're around Belfast then please join me to launch the book at No Alibis on Saturday 14th September at 4.30pm.  And if you're planning to do any of those things then massive thanks in advance. It means a great deal. x

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