Characters not caricatures

People are not simple. They are full of complexities and contradictions. As writers we must be careful to create characters that are not cardboard cut-outs or stereotypes. We must make our characters come alive and appear real. We want our readers to be engaged, to believe in them. They may not like them but they must be willing to invest time and interest in them. After all, our main aim is to keep our readers reading.

How do writers do this? How do we reveal our characters in ways which make them seem true to life? There are many techniques we can use. We can provide a physical description of the character: how do they move, look, smell, how does the way they look affect the things they do? We can write about the character’s behaviour in their world: how they interact with others; any habits they have; how they react to external forces. We can use dialogue: what the character says; any speech patterns or phrases; what the character doesn’t say. We can think about the character’s back story: how this made them into the person they are. We can reveal the character’s inner life and thought processes.

As writers, we must be observant of people in our everyday lives. We must notice the ways they behave, the things they say, how they react to each other and their environment. We must remember to use our notebooks and keep a record of what we see and hear. These life experiences will help us develop our characters.

We must be readers too. We must study the way other writers portray characters. Do we believe in the character we are reading about? What techniques is the writer using? What works well and what doesn’t? We can keep notes on character portrayals that we find useful or particularly good.

Before we begin to write a story, we can make a character profile. This can include: the character’s looks, relationships, behaviours, habits, likes, dislikes, back story and motivations. This will help us make our characters well-rounded, fully developed people. Not forgetting, of course, that sometimes people can behave ‘out of character’. We are not straightforward after all and cannot be put into neat boxes. That’s what makes being a writer so interesting.

 

How do you develop characters in your stories? Do you write character profiles before you begin?

Stuck in the mud

Today, I have a confession. Despite my writer’s resolutions, I haven’t had a good start to 2018. Yes, I have tried to write something every day – a bit of poetry, some thoughts and a few story ideas. But no, I haven’t worked much on my novel. If I’m being really honest, I’m feeling a little stuck with it. Like the gooey mud I trudge through daily to look after my goats, the bare pages suck and cling to my pen making progress slow. Like the grey, gloomy skies above, thick with rain cloud, my mind is a blank, heavy mass.

There is plenty of material to work with, I think,  but I cannot seem to organize it in a coherent way. My scribblings stretch across numerous notebooks, scraps of paper and sticky notes. I have part chapters and sections on my computer, along with completed ones. My method so far, if it can be called that, has been some sketchy planning and then writing with the flow. This has helped to develop some interesting ideas but also plenty of disorder. My writing style seems to have uncovered a secret me that I was unaware existed under my skin – a messy, uncoordinated me. Normally a fairly neat control freak, I seem to morph as a writer into a scruffy, chaotic hoarder.

Before I can carry on with my novel, I need to put this right. I need to find order so that I can get some clarity. My aim over the next week is to gather all my writings together in one folder. Then I think I’m going to continue my novel writing in one place – a large notebook. Once written in the notebook, I can transfer it to computer ready for editing. I’m still old-fashioned and write much better with a pen in my hand first time round, though I’m fully aware this is a much slower process.

I’m off to Ireland soon to visit a friend – on my own, what luxury! There I will have space, time and quiet. Surrounded by lush, green mountains, I hope to tackle more sections of my novel and come home feeling that I have achieved something. So, I have a deadline (which is good for me as I’m sure part of my problem is only being answerable to myself). I have to get sorted before my trip.

Wish me luck!

 

Is it just me or have you ever got stuck with your writing? Are you a muddled writer or highly efficient and organized?

Talking to yourself is a sign you’re a writer

I am never alone. I have multiple personalities inhabiting my head. A throng of people, of varying genders, sizes and ages. Sometimes these people talk; they whisper, shout, argue, cry and laugh inside my mind. Sometimes they burst out into the real world. They escape on to paper; become stories and poems others can read. Sometimes they break out as words; fragments of conversations spoken into the air where others can hear. My husband and children are used to my odd behaviour. ‘What did you say?’ they ask and I reply, ‘Just talking to myself’, or ‘Just thinking about a bit of my novel.’ With a shrug of the shoulders, they carry on. When it happens around other people, it can be embarrassing.

The first time I remember, was as a small girl, in a supermarket which was rather dull. I was making up a story to relieve my boredom. I’ve forgotten what it was about. In the middle of an involved exchange with some imagined character, I looked up and noticed two shelf-fillers had stopped what they were doing and were listening to me. They had broad, entertained grins on their faces. Reddening, I turned and hurried back down the aisle.

Since then, I have had many experiences of being overheard. My mind gets carried away, the characters come to life and out the words come, normally hushed under my breath. It can happen anywhere; on buses, trains, walking the dogs, shopping. I have had people ask if I am all right or if I am speaking to them. I have had people laugh or sneer. I have had people edge away awkwardly, concern on their faces. Mostly, I am met with bemused amusement. I feel a little foolish but it does no harm. In fact, it even does some good. The listener gets a good chuckle and something to talk about, while I develop my story lines.

It is acting with me taking every role. Playing out different scenes and characters helps me work out the plot. I become that person for a while; think, feel and respond as them. I decide how they would behave in each situation. It is part of who I am; I cannot imagine my life without the company of these others. Once, it worried me. I thought perhaps I was too caught up in a fantasy world; I was a bit kooky. After all, they say talking to yourself is a sign of madness. I am no longer bothered by it; I am aware where reality ends and the stories begin. It turns out that talking to yourself is a sign you’re a writer.

 

What do you think, fellow writers? Do you talk to yourselves too?

 

 

 

5 things my goats teach me about writing

Anyone who knows me, knows I love spending time with my goats. Every day, their affectionate and funny antics make me laugh. I am happy and relaxed in their company.  My gingerbread boys help me think about myself as a writer. They provide inspiration and encourage my creativity.

Here are 5 things my goats teach me about writing:

1. Be on the look-out

Goats are always alert. No matter what they are doing, one ear is pricked listening, senses heightened, observant of any action taking place in the vicinity of the house or garden. Any passing vehicle, any person opening a door or gate, any animal or bird, wild or domestic, is noted with interest. Heads pop up, eyes bright and intelligent, to assess the situation.

As a writer, I must be observant. I must be on the look-out in my environment, searching for new ideas and experiences. An idea may come from anywhere. I must be open and ready. My own senses heightened, aware of sounds in my ears, smells in my nose, tastes in my mouth, colours, shapes and images in my eyes, feelings and sensations on my skin. I must use these sensory experiences to inform and improve my writing.

2. Be curious

Goats are intelligent and eager to learn. They constantly explore their environment. Anything new needs closer investigation. At first from a distance, looked over thoroughly with calculating eyes. Then, if considered safe, a close and rigorous sniffing with velvety, wet noses, and tasting with soft, malleable lips.

As a writer, I must be curious and eager to learn. I must go out and explore my environment to find material. Where necessary, I must research new topics to add interest, realism and depth to my writing.

3. Have fun

Goats enjoy life. They love to play; skipping and leaping around the paddock, butting and scuffling with one another, climbing logs and fences. They find pleasure in everything they do. They test out any object discovered, experimenting and turning it into a game.

As a writer, I must have fun. I must be playful; unafraid to experiment with different ideas.  Trying out new techniques, will empower and develop my writing abilities. It will help me find my voice as a writer.

4. Be sensitive

Goats are gentle, empathetic creatures. Just as they are aware of their surroundings, they are aware of other’s emotions. They can sense a person’s mood; giving a reassuring nuzzle or bounding up for a game depending on what is needed.

As a writer, I must be empathetic. I must be aware of the emotions of my characters and deal with them sensitively. I must also be aware of my reader’s emotions and experiences which will influence the way they read my novel. Understanding how other people feel will help me write more effectively, touching upon the realities of other lives.

5. Persevere

Goats never give up. They are determined, stubborn animals; spending time plotting and planning their moves. Once a decision is made, like jumping a fence or breaking into the vegetable plot, they will not stop until they have achieved their goal.

As a writer, I must never give up. I must be stubborn and determined; planning, plotting and writing my novel until it is finished. I must face rejection and still keep going until I have achieved my goal. I will not stop.

 

So, I believe we can learn a lot from the way our animals behave. What do you think? Has an animal inspired or helped you with your writing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding my voice

Today, my body is jangling; nervous excitement bubbling within. At regular intervals, when I’m making a cup of tea, or feeding the cat, or hoovering the carpet, my mind falls upon the approaching evening and a thrill of fear ripples through me. I take a calming breath, tell myself it will be fine and try to get on with my day. Sometimes I wonder, why do I do this to myself? Why go through this self-imposed stress and worry?

The tense build-up of anticipation, the pacing, nail nibbling and sudden lurching in my stomach is completely my own doing. Tonight, at a local venue surrounded by people who know me, I will sing.

I love to sing. It gives me great joy; a sense of peace and well-being. At home, I sing all the time. To my husband, who says I have a song for every occasion, to my children, to my chickens, dogs, cats and goats. I think my singing probably drives them a little crazy (the humans not the animals; they adore it and often ask for more). I don’t care, I sing anyway. Often, I wish life was a musical.

The problem was, although I sang non-stop at home, I never sang anywhere else. As a child, I was in a school choir, and I busked a bit as a teenager, but nothing since. Singing was, much like my writing, a secret, private thing. Recently, I began to feel that wasn’t satisfactory. We only get one chance at life and mine was moving on at a shocking rate. I decided to attend a local singing group. The first meeting was terrifying. ‘Are you a soprano or alto?’ they asked. ‘I don’t know,’ I replied, ‘I just like to sing.’ It didn’t matter, I could join in and see where I felt comfortable. As the piano began, I was shaking. What if I loved singing but sounded like a frog with influenza?

There was no need for concern. From the moment I opened my mouth and sang the first note, I knew I belonged. My spirits rose, soaring into the sky to mingle with our voices. My confidence grew and I realized that I had been missing out. Being too shy, too afraid, I had prevented myself from getting involved with singing before. I had waited until I was nearly fifty. Now I had found something special and I wanted to waste no time catching up.

So, how did I get from one singing session to waiting with trepidation to perform this evening? Well, at Christmas, our group performed a carol concert. At the venue, there was a chap playing the fiddle and I commented to a friend (rather stupidly it turned out) that I’d love to sing some folk tunes with him. The next thing I knew, he approached me and said my friend had told him I’d like to sing with him. It was like being back on the school playground and I blushed as crimson as I did those long days ago. Despite the embarrassment, I agreed and we have been practising determinedly.

I am ready for tonight. After all these years, I have found my voice.

Hopefully, I will find my voice as a writer too. There’s a huge amount of advice out there. We should be concise. We should have rhythm. We should appeal to our readers. We should write what we know. We should observe the details. We should paint clear pictures. We should read other’s work. We should be ourselves. It can get a bit overwhelming; like a singer in front of an audience, the fear and doubt can make us dry up. We open our pens and nothing comes out.

I think I’m going to concentrate on enjoying myself and being true to myself. Like my performance tonight, I’ll focus on one word at a time.

 

Do you think you’ve found your voice yet?

 

 

 

The Goat Road

I wrote this short story for a recent competition. The theme was ‘Journeys’ – I didn’t get shortlisted but I hope you enjoy it.

 

The Goat Road

Dilwyn knew the neighbours thought he was a silly old goat. He chuckled to himself, it was because of his goat Primrose, he had that reputation. Some even said he let her sleep in his bedroom. He didn’t of course, but he liked to bring her into the kitchen to share his supper now and again. The goat was a lonely creature, much like Dilwyn himself. She’d lost her sister, Bluebell, to a nasty bout of scours the year before and had been glad of Dilwyn’s company and friendship ever since. The two of them spent hours in the meadow staring out at the blue sea beyond, meditating on the beauty of the countryside. While Dilwyn tended his vegetable patch, Primrose stood at the fence bleating the occasional bit of advice, happy to receive the odd carrot or cabbage leaf as thanks.

“Let’s sit here a while, bach,” Dilwyn puffed, “I’m fair tired.” He sat down on a grassy bank where the hedgerow grew thick with tasty titbits for Primrose.

Dilwyn had worried about his retirement from the dairy farm. He’d worked there man and boy as farmhand and milker. He didn’t know any other life or how he would fill his days. It was young Mr Rhys, who took over the farm when old Mr Rhys died, had suggested getting a couple of dairy goats to keep him occupied when the day came for him to leave. He had never regretted following that counsel. Spring primroses and bluebells festooned the lanes the day he brought his two kids home, one tucked under each arm, wriggling and squirming with energy. So that was what he’d decided to call them. When he let them down they had bucked, skipped and jumped all over the paddock. He’d laughed to see them young and full of high spirits. They gave him a fresh interest in life and his own step became sprightly once more.

That had been more than six years ago. The kids had grown into pretty, glossy animals with long coats which Dilwyn enjoyed brushing. They had supplied him with healthy kids he’d sold on for good profit and they were sturdy, excellent milkers providing more than enough for his needs. He was able to sell milk and butter at his gate. More importantly for Dilwyn though, they were friendly, intelligent girls and he loved them. It had broken his heart almost as much as Primrose’s when Bluebell had died. He’d sat up all night in the goat shed, stroking and comforting her in her last moments, tears streaming down his stubbly chin.

Dilwyn took a long swig of nutty, brown ale. He looked across at Primrose contentedly nibbling at the brambles entwining the hedge. The sun shone round and bright sparkling on the fern leaves, precious gems of golden ochre and fiery orange, along the narrow lane.

“We have the weather for it, my girl,” Dilwyn said. From his seat on the bank, he could see a patch of turquoise sea below him, the little village nestled safely in the bay. A surge of love filled his heart, for this place where he’d always lived and had seldom left. He’d been away only twice before – for his cousin’s wedding in the town and when his father was admitted to hospital; poor soul had wanted to die at home but sadly it wasn’t to be.

Dilwyn sighed. He himself had woken that morning with a familiar feeling something was wrong. His chest constricted, like a lead weight pressing him down, and his breath coming in short gasps. Silly fool, Dilwyn had admonished himself, you’re growing old, isn’t it boy? He had lain quietly for a few minutes until the sensation passed, pale light trickling through a gap in his bedroom curtains, Primrose waiting for her morning barley. He’d been getting later these last few days, rising had been effortful. He had gotten out of bed deliberately, carefully sliding his legs into scruffy trousers, pulling on sturdy boots, and hobbling out into the hall. Outside he had found a crisp Autumn morning, clean and damp with dew. He had breathed in slowly, feeling much better for fresh air, ready to see to his beloved goat. Primrose had been lively in her stall, calling for her morning meal. At least these funny turns of his were fleeting.

“You’re a good girl, Primrose,” Dilwyn smiled lovingly at his goat as she snuffled at the juicy black fruits in the hedge, “I’m going to miss you, cariad.” Primrose’s gentle face seemed to smile back at him.

After breakfast, Dilwyn had prepared all he would need for the trip. In a muslin cloth, he’d wrapped two thick slices of bread, a chunk of crumbly cheese, an apple and two carrots for Primrose, then filled a bottle with ale and pushed in the cork stopper. He had put these things in a coarse hessian sack and tied them around his waist, under his coat, with sturdy string. He’d gathered the goat harness and lead from its hook by the door and gone out to collect Primrose. Dilwyn had whistled merrily, determined to enjoy this time with his goat, as they crunched through the fallen leaves up the steep hill leading out of the village. A couple of miles steady climbing later, they had reached the top, ready for a breather.

Primrose nudged and sniffled at his coat.

“Do you want a carrot, my lovely?” Dilwyn scrambled in his rough sack to find her one. Primrose accepted the carrot gratefully, crunching noisily.

“Is she friendly, your goat?”

Dilwyn looked around, startled by the piping voice behind him. There in the gateway stood a small girl, grubbily dressed in a smock and dusty bare feet.

“She is.” Dilwyn replied, “Do you want a cwtch?”

The girl climbed the gate expertly and approached the goat, hands outstretched warily, “She won’t bite me?”

“No.” Dilwyn smiled, “Wouldn’t hurt a fly. Rub her neck, behind her ears, she likes that.”

The little girl stroked Primrose’s neck gently, laughing. “She’s soft…Why you here?”

“Having a rest.”

“Why?” the girl wrinkled her nose.

“We’ve walked up that hill…it’s steep, isn’t it?” Dilwyn pointed back down the lane.

“Why you walking?”

“To take Primrose to her new family.” Dilwyn replied.

“Don’t you want her no more?” the little girl studied Dilwyn curiously.

“Time for me to say goodbye. I’m an old man,” Dilwyn answered sadly. “It’s the best thing for Primrose.”

The girl put her arms around the goat’s neck, “She’ll be happy there, won’t she?”

“Yes,” Dilwyn agreed, “She’ll be happy.” The man and girl locked eyes for a moment.

“What’s your name, cariad bach?” Dilwyn broke the silence.

The girl twiddled her flaxen curls, “Ceinwen.”

“I’m Dilwyn.” He held out his hand and they shook.

“I gotta go!” Ceinwen squealed suddenly, “Mam will be mad at me if I’m late to collect the chook eggs…Ta ra mister, Ta ra Primrose!”

Dilwyn chortled as he watched her retreating back, racing across the field, a bundle of energy. Ceinwen; lovely, fair, white. It suited her. He and Megan had never been blessed with children. He could see his wife, like a bird; full of spirit, not unlike that little lass. They had grown up together in the village and he knew the first moment he saw her she would be his one day. Megan had kept him in order, kept the cottage sparkling like a new pin. He savoured the delicious memory of her bread and cakes baking in the range. It had been many years since he lost her; her tiny body had worn itself out trying to give birth to their stillborn son.

Primrose snorted warm, vinegary breath into his face. Dilwyn lifted her chin to stroke her velvety muzzle. Her clever, inquisitive eyes seemed to stare into his soul as if to say, I know everything you’re thinking, old man.

“I’m a silly sentimental bugger, bach.” Dilwyn patted her belly.  He took another sip of ale, “Better be heading off soon.”

Somewhere further up the lane, Dilwyn could hear buzzing, like a giant housefly. He turned his head to make sense of the sound. He had never heard anything like it before.

“Well, what is that dreadful racket, my girl?” he asked Primrose who raised her head in alarm, “It’s alright, bach, come by ‘ere, I’ll look after you.”

Dilwyn held Primrose’s leash tight as a shiny bottle green, box-shaped carriage on four large wheels came beeping and tooting around the corner. Sitting inside was a smart gentleman in eye goggles. Dilwyn had seen the threshing machine at Mr Rhys’s farm, and he’d listened to the young folk describing the railway engines at Cardigan, monstrous great bulls snorting steam from their nostrils. This was something new, like a cart without the horse. It slowed and came to a halt next to Dilwyn.

“Hope I didn’t scare your goat, my man,” the gentleman called.

Primrose was wide-eyed and breathing heavily. Dilwyn reassured her with a gentle pat.

“She doesn’t like the noise, sir,” Dilwyn said, standing up slowly, tipping his cap.

“No. Well, it does take a bit of getting used to,” the gentleman pulled his goggles down, “But isn’t she a beauty?  This is the future, don’t you know? I’m taking her for her first outing.”

“But sir…whatever is it?” Dilwyn raised his hands in amazement.

“An automobile, my man. The first in West Wales!” the gentleman patted his vehicle proudly, then he was off again trundling away in a noisy cloud of smoke and dust.

“Good heavens…” Dilwyn shook his head in disbelief, sitting gradually down again, “He’ll kill us all, bach.”

Primrose tossed her head in agreement and settled back to eating the hedge.

Dilwyn thought if the future was going to be automobiles, perhaps it was best he wouldn’t be there to see it. All that noise and nasty smelly fumes spoiling the countryside. Everything moved on so quickly these days. Those scientists and inventors with their new-fangled ideas. He’d been told that in some places in England, where rich folks lived, they had lights inside their houses, not candles or even gas mind, but lights you put on by pressing a switch. He’d even heard stories about two men in America who were trying to build a machine that would fly like a bird. He couldn’t believe it could be true though. People enjoyed their fairy tales.

“What is the world coming to, my girl?” Dilwyn asked Primrose, casting a longing look at the sea, “Well, I suppose we should get going. We’ve a long way yet.”

He stroked Primrose forlornly along her flank. She looked up, nuzzling his chin, breath sweet with fermenting leaves. Her benign, friendly face smiled, I understand, old man, you have to do this. Dilwyn planted a kiss, between her horns, on her knobbly forehead.

It had been the hardest decision of his life, but Dilwyn knew it was the right thing to do. Primrose had several more good years in her. Years when he wouldn’t be fit and able to care for her properly; years when he wouldn’t be around. He knew she needed a new place, somewhere with other goats where she could end her days happily. So, he had arranged for Primrose to go and live with his younger cousin Eleri, on her farm near Newcastle Emlyn. She had a small herd of dairy goats and Dilwyn knew she would care for his beauty. It was almost nine miles from his home in Aberporth to Eleri’s farm. Primrose behaved impeccably on a leash and he wanted to take her there himself. A last journey for them together. He felt well enough to do this; he needed to do this. To say goodbye to Primrose.

Dilwyn rose stiffly from his resting place, “Come on, my cariad. Let’s take you home.”

 

Thank you for reading

The hand is willing but the brain is weak

How can a mind be empty and full at the same time?

This is the problem I have been struggling with this past week. Uninspired, unable to put pen to paper, my brain has battled with an army of niggling worries instead. Each time I’ve attempted to sit at the keyboard, my focus has disappeared and my head has felt it will burst from the pressure of unhelpful thoughts building behind my eyes.

This week was going to be the start. My son was off to college, I would finally have time to get on with my writing. Every day I would work on my novel, chipping away at the chapters. I have failed. The words have not flowed, the ideas have deserted me. Even re-reading and editing has been beyond my capabilities.

I can’t put my finger on exactly what is wrong. Yes, there is anxiety. Will my son be happy in this new phase? Will my daughter be safe on her travels in the US? Will I be able to get my novel written? Yes, there is anticipation. Won’t it be great when my daughter gets home next week? Won’t it be a relief when the barn is rebuilt? Will anyone want to read my novel? Yes, there is concern. Should I get a job? Will my daughter settle happily at university? Will I be able to get my novel published?

So, I abandon my desk and escape outside. I breath in the cool air, let the rain freshen my face and the wild wind tangle my hair. My shoulders relax as I walk in the garden. The swallow family are preparing to leave us; the young swoop joyfully above me, chattering like monkeys. The bracken is turning from bright green to shades of copper and gold. A wood pigeon flutters in the hedge, greedily gobbling up elderberries. My goats bleat, happy in my company. I feel a sense of joy to be in the open. Under the wide grey sky, my thoughts settle. Here in this moment, I am composed.

Perhaps I’ve piled on too much expectation. Writing isn’t about having the time. Writing is a state of being. We must feel  the need or desire to write. If we lose the compulsion, then it is time to withdraw, take a break. I must give myself some space to calm my mind and recharge my imagination. Tomorrow is another day and I will try again. Writing is about doing the hard work too. A professional writer gets down to the task. I will not panic. I will listen to some useful writing advice:

“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.” — Hilary Mantel

“Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.” — Barbara Kingsolver

What do you do when unable to focus on writing?

 

The distractions of poetry

Sometimes when I sit down to work on my novel, my mind wanders and is unable to focus. I am stuck or uncertain where to go with the story; I feel frustrated, empty of ideas, completely hopeless.

Sometimes I find myself working on a poem instead; my novel left untouched. I’m not sure if it’s a distraction or a kind of procrastination. I hope it’s a continuation of the creative process.

Poetry opens my imagination. I can express thoughts and ideas. I can experiment. I can develop my skills as a writer; use description, imagery, play with words. I must not worry. The more I write, the better I will get. The important thing is to write. Write anything, write everything and write as often as I can.

So this morning, when I sat down to think about my novel, a conversation with my husband popped into my head. At the moment, the weather is particularly unseasonable. This is an interaction we have on many nights, it’s almost a poem:

 

Get your hands off me,

they’re freezing.

Cold hands, warm heart.

Your heart must be a 

fiery furnace.

Get your feet off me,

they’re ice blocks.

Cold feet, poor circulation.

Your toes will

fall off one day.

You’re an iceberg.

I’m not your personal heater.

Yes, you are.

A husband is your very own

hot water bottle.

 

Novel ideas

Where do ideas for novels come from?

Having decided to take this novel writing thing seriously, I then panicked. What would my novel be about? Would my idea be ‘good enough’? Could I make it fill out a whole book? My mind went blank, as it typically does when put under stress. Then I took a deep breath and relaxed a little.

Writers use their experiences, so ideas for novels can come from many places. It might be a passion, or an interest, or a hobby. It might be something that happened to the writer, or to a relative, or to a friend or to somebody vaguely known. It might be a news story from the TV or radio. It might be a book, or a film or a picture. It might be a word, or some music or a sound. It might be that interesting old man who walks his dog along the street every day.

The truth was, I knew what my novel was going to be about. It was a story I had been developing in my mind for many years. I’d even once started to write it down. The seed of my novel had begun with a sense of place. My place was the last home I lived in. An old, damp stone house nestled in the woods with a stream running past. This house and its surroundings inspired in me a feeling of poignancy. I wanted to write a story which reflected that feeling.  I began to create scenes and characters in my mind during my daily walks in the woods along the stream.

When you are a writer, your mind is constantly searching for and thinking about stories. We are story collectors. We find inspiration anywhere and everywhere.

Where do you get your novel ideas?

 

 

So, why a blog?

cropped-dsc06770-1024x576.jpgI have no idea really. I’m computer illiterate and totally phased by this whole setting up a blog page thing. I have very little idea about what I’m doing. In fact, I’m terrified. What am I so scared of? Everything at the moment.

I’m a mother of a daughter and son who are leaving the nest. I’m on the rapid downhill to fifty. I’ve spent twenty years bringing up a family, looking after my husband, home educating said children and keeping the house together. I haven’t had a ‘proper job’ in all that time, although I have worked pretty hard for free. My career was side-tracked long ago when I decided to be a full-time mother and home educator. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret it. I loved every minute. It was the best decision I ever made and I was good at it. I’m proud of what my children have achieved through my guidance. They are intelligent, independent individuals with a strong sense of who they are. We have all learned so much from the experience and are a close, loving family because of it. But where do I go from here? Who am I now? What do I want? That’s when the fear kicks in.

Fear of what? So many things. My failure, my success, not being good enough, not being capable, not having any ability or skills. I guess when you’ve put so much time into other people, you lose a bit of yourself. I need to rediscover me, what I am, what I’m capable of, what I want. I know some things I don’t want. I don’t want a job that sets my life in boring routine. I don’t want to work full-time. I’ve loved the freedom of home educating where we threw out the timetable and every day could be different.

I know some things I want. I want time to spend with my family. I want time to be on my, very small, smallholding with my animals. I want to be creative, do things I enjoy, for myself and possibly others. A little extra income would be helpful so I can do those things. I want to have a go at writing a novel.

There, I’ve said it. I have ambitions to be a writer. Like many other people, I have secretly scribbled away in notebooks for many years, all my life really. I have rejected these scribblings with disgust and consigned everything I’ve ever written to the bin. Like many other people, I am riddled with self-doubt. The absolute terror that everything I write is complete rubbish and unworthy for other eyes. Well, that has to stop. I’ve decided this is an opportunity for a fresh start.

I’m at a crossroads in my life. Change has been thrust upon me. I knew the day would come when my kids would move on. It has happened. I don’t like it. I am afraid. Call it a midlife crisis, call it an unrealistic fantasy, call it ridiculous but I am going to summon up all my courage and try, really try, to get this novel written. Somewhere inside me is a book, a story to be told. My youthful creativity and confidence can return. Those early dreams, lost in motherhood and everyday living, can become a reality.

So, I’m starting this blog. Without a clue how to do so. People have suggested it might help. It might encourage me to write. It might make me accountable. If I announce here to the world that I’m a writer and I’m writing a novel, then perhaps I’ll do the work, I’ll make it happen, I’ll develop some faith in myself.

I can do this.