So, today’s ‘what I love’ is actually about something I’ve just started…again. There’s something about the very beginning of a new novel; when the details aren’t there, when you’re feeling your way, and things are just vague shapes in your mind.
For me, it starts with the end. I generally, although not always, know how and where the story is going to end. Being left-handed, I’m used to approaching things slightly backwards in comparison to the right handed way of the world, and I tend to know what the destination is for my characters, even if I’m not sure how they get there! That was certainly true for my debut novel, The Second Chance Tea Shop, when I knew how my characters got their happily ever after and what time of year it would be, even before i’d written a word of it! Likewise, with ‘Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terrace’, my fifth novel, there was a key climactic scene involving a military uniform, Shakespeare and a very excited audience that just had to be, if not the end, then pretty damned close to it. And now with this book I’ve just started, it’s a house that becomes something it should have been a long time ago, with the help of my protagonists. I’m saying no more than that!
But there are other things. Generally, I get a clear idea of my male protagonist first, and in this case that’s definitely true. The train of thought is leading me towards a close real life associate of the actor who eventually became the ‘face’ of my previous novel, in my mind, and at the moment, he seems to be sticking. I’m playing about with the idea of him as the hero, trying stuff out, filling in some gaps, joining the dots in my mind and seeing if I’ve got a decent picture. This involves writing random snippets of scenes that may or may not end up in the final novel (I’m getting more efficient at this, and most of them do, these days). I like to start with the emotional high points – the laughter, the tears, the declarations of love and intent, the arguments, the expressions of inner and outer conflict and motivation, until I can thread them together coherently, and that’s where I’m at right now. I’ve got the first thousand words or so, and it’s mainly dialogue.
And new dialogue is the best thing about starting a new novel. Conversation between characters allows me to flesh them out, to experiment with how they might respond to their circumstances. It allows me to have people shouting at each other with complete impunity, and experiment with how they might tell each other the really important stuff. Dialogue carries my novels, and I love writing it.
So there you have it. Although I might (and usually do) hit the wall about halfway through a draft, the beginning is always an exciting experience, and one that, thankfully, I love!