The Novel Structure: A Problem

I met with the local novelist group on Wednesday afternoon as planned. At the end of the two hour session, I came away with a lot of notes on the first seven chapters of my first novel, a psychological thriller.

Most of the group thought the writing style was good. Many enjoyed the tension, but virtually everyone felt that I’m putting in too much information too soon and shifting time frames too often. They found it difficult to understand the plot.

So, I’ve opened up a new file on the computer, cut and pasted a couple of chapters and begun to simplify the text, away from the main story file. I’ve also decided to experiment with writing in the present tense to get a new feel for the text.

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I hope to arrange to get the editing report email sent over to my account later this morning.

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The Memory Game

For many, the subject of memory remains a mystery.

As a writer, I’m particularly interested in memory. I’m working on two psychological thrillers, both dealing with recollections of past events. The second novel contains a number of flashbacks prompted by triggers, such as a particular sound or a certain smell. For a long time, I assumed that the strongest memories are the most accurate, but about a couple of years ago I heard otherwise.

Apparently, memories get muddled. When a person remembers an event from long ago, they’re really remembering a memory of that event. In some instances, people reinvent memories after a particularly traumatic event.. I’ve even heard that criminal lawyers dread dealing with witnesses who claim to have vivid memories of a crime, as so often the opposing lawyer manages to cast doubt on the witness account.

However, I still think the strongest memories are generally the most accurate. Recently, I got to see a class photograph taken at primary school. I hadn’t met any of the pupils or teachers for years and had moved location many times since the taking of the photograph. Children tend to remember grown ups as being “old”. As an adult looking back, I was expecting the teacher and headmaster to look much younger in the school photograph. But they didn’t. They looked exactly how I remembered them from years ago – a couple of rather austere grown ups. The hair, the facial features, the expressions all matched.

So what does this mean for me? It means that I’ll trust my memories and intuitions in future.

Obsessed With Web 2.0?

I have a confession to make…  I’ve become obsessed with Web 2.0, and I would imagine that I’m not the only one.    The web 2.0 sites are great for writers and musicians, and they’re mostly free.   In particular, I like the writing and music sites that give artists the chance to present their work.   I use WordPress, Yudu and Last.fm – all fantastic sites.

Listing of Web 2.0 sites

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Meanwhile, the editing report on my first novel should be available this weekend, so I’m preparing myself mentally.  I’ve already read the novel through after an extended period away from it and made pages of notes.

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More from the Autobiography:

In the evenings, we played with the other children on the estate.  To the right stood a square with a line of horizontal graves behind a row of benches. We would hang around there, making up scary stories about skeletons and old men, our imaginations fuelled by the evening light and the dark slab of a building at the other end of the yard that always appeared empty.  A lawn stood in the centre surrounded by trees where dog walkers brought their dogs and an incline led up to the church with hedges both side where we could throw soil around. In the distance, the rugged outlines of the Pennines stretched along the skyline, bleak and dreary most days.

[The Estate in Lancashire]

A Really Scary Movie

Although I love to read a good psychological thriller, I don’t usually get scared.   Psychological thrillers on TV frighten me even less because the plot often has a made-for-television feel and doesn’t always ring true.   But there’s one movie I did see a couple of years ago that chilled me from the start –   Identity (2003)   I watched it alone at night and kept on glancing over my shoulders constantly throughout the film.   A scary but fascinating story.

I would definitely watch it again.

A Sunday Ramble

There’s some news on the editing report…I should get it some time next week.  In the meantime, I’m reading through the first novel carefully, making notes on the computer.  

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From the autobiography I’ve been working on.  This is an account of childhood walks in the north of England:

Most Sundays, we spent the day hiking in the country.  Often, we would hurry away in the car with the David Jacobs programme playing on the car radio.  I loved it on Sunday mornings when we were in the car and the third movement of Beethoven’s Seventh symphony – the scherzo and trio movement – burst out over the speaker, the rises and falls in the music matching the mounts and vales of the country road.  The countryside meant a lot to me – as did music. 

War memorials.  Village church clocks.  Quarries stretching out at the bottom of winding roads.  Pieces of machinery humming over the stillness as we climbed steep hills.  We walked in all weather conditions, our boots tramping in mud when it rained, our cagoules protecting us against Pennine winds.  Most Sundays, we walked about seven or eight miles, stopping for a sandwich lunch on the trail.

Dartington College of Arts

I’m still waiting for the editing report on my first novel.   In the meantime, I’ve been working on a different writing project detailing my student days at Dartington College of Arts, Totnes, Devon, where I took my music degree.   This account tells of my first visit to Totnes:

I liked Totnes immediately.  I spent a couple of nights in a bed and breakfast house in a steep lane tucked away from the main street.   On the day of the audition, I set off up the hill to the college, past fields and a river, knowing that this was where I would like to spend the next three years.  The air was fresh with the scent of the country and the unmistakable smell of animals and manure.  I savoured the feel of the mild winter chill against my cheeks, like I had done many times during my childhood rambles in the countryside in the north of England.              

The college stood near the top of the hill: three adjacent buildings for the dance, drama and music students;  a courtyard consisting of the Great Hall, the White Hart bar, admin offices, staff room, library and cinema, a central lawn.  An archway connected the library and cinema.  Further on was Higher Close, the student area overlooking the fields below. 

After attending an introductory talk in one of the studios with the other prospective students, I took another short walk to the front of the music department where the main offices were situated.  Mr Artherton had helped me prepare the first movement of a Haydn piano sonata and one of the pieces from Debussy’s Children’s Corner.  When I finished playing these, the lecturer at Dartington said, ‘you have an extremely musical ear.’

A Writing Tip

Always check carefully for spelling and grammatical errors, even if this means delaying presenting the piece of writing in question.  

  • Copy the written passage and paste it into a different word processing programme to see if any problems show up
  • Try viewing it on a handheld device
  • View a newly written blog post from the main category/tag section instead of from the individual blog itself

Yesterday, I wrote a blurb style summary on my first novel.  (That’s the novel I sent for an editing report.)  After changing a few of the sentences and doing a spellcheck, I assumed I’d eradicated all typos.  However, when I read the summary on my mobile phone later that day, I noticed a couple of mistakes. 

“Barn” had become “bar” and “random, “randon”.   

So I made the neccesary corrections first thing this morning.