Archive | February, 2014

The Way Ahead

28 Feb



It is now a lot clearer.  I have been grappling with a spaghetti junction of events in my story, which converged to manifest as a huge obstacle to my progress.  So I decided to fast forward the narrative to a calmer place where the turmoil is over and can be a source of reflection for the characters.

Now I am moving.


The Importance of Mapping or How to Avoid Losing The Plot

17 Feb


I am not renowned for my organizational skills so when I began my novel, I assumed that as I was the creator of all and sundry within it, it would be possible to meander along and eventually reach The End.

However, I now concede that this mellow approach can become problematic, especially as my novel has been a long time on the production line, having spent at least five years lying dormant in an old computer,

The value of planning and mapping out the story in advance became evident when I found myself having to look back to find out what my characters looked like; is she a brunet or red head? Is he swarthy or pale? …

Also the time span of events needs to be considered. Too much happens in a very short timeframe in order that the climax is reached on a designated day, such as Christmas Day, or the day the boat sails.  In my next draft I will have to address this but it could have been avoided.

Having identified the problems my lack of planning caused, I am now doing the following;

  • I have a file in which to keep details of the characteristics and appearance of the characters in my story
  • I have planned a chronological time-line of events
  • I have sketched a map of the story setting

Now that I am so very organized I can get on with writing the novel …


The Big Delete

15 Feb


My writing week has been significant for the progress I have made, but equally so for the amount of work I have deleted. Sometimes it can take ten minutes to make a satisfactory sentence; developing from simple to complex and descriptive.  Whole passages have been deleted for the sake of simplicity, then after an hour of total absorption and mental agony, I have a page with which I am more or less content. However, as this is the first draft I am aware that after further revision it will probably change  beyond recognition.   

Finding the right word is also time consuming, and in an attempt to introduce some varied vocabulary I made use of the thesaurus on my iPhone. This became an entertaining and distracting pastime and resulted in some serious procrastinating, as is the case with blogging, I might add.




An Encounter at the Crown

15 Feb


‘Would you ever be knowing the whereabouts of a fella called John Cattell darlin’?”

Paddy asked the buxom barmaid at The Crown Inn.

“No I don’t I’m sorry to say. But if you want to tell me all about him I’m willin’ to listen.”

She winked at Paddy, who blushed mildly, but enjoyed the flattery and noted the good natured humour of the voluptuous lady.

‘He was ‘ere but he’s gone now,’ declared a voice which emanated from an entity perched on the stool beside Paddy.

It was Ellen’s brother in his usual position at the bar. His voice was hoarse and hardly audible. Years of dwelling in the bar enveloped by a grey haze, had seemingly smoked him like a kipper.

Paddy was visibly stung by this revelation.

‘Then can you tell me where he’s after goin’?”

‘All’s I know is he’s got a ticket to America. He showed it to the landlord the day he left.  He’ll be sailin’ on The Liverpool Lady.’

‘Is it a friend of his you are?’ Paddy enquired downing a hard earned pint of warm beer.

‘No but me sister took a fancy to ‘im once.  Then he took off, disappeared like, broke ‘er  heart. A troubled man, very troubled, dying wife, three littluns.’

‘Sure I know all about that my friend.’

‘The name’s Jacob.’ He held out a crusty nicotine tarred hand, which Paddy gripped firmly.

‘Good man Jacob. They call me Paddy McGuire.  I’ll be on my way home to my girls now. Thanks for your help, though it’s not the news I was hopin’ for.’

‘Hope to see you again Paddy McGuire. They call me Ethel.’ The barmaid declared.

‘Pleased to meet you Ethel, I may well return. That was a grand pint.’

He set off to deliver the bad news to Bernie and Colleen.  He had been hopeful of an encounter with John, but in spite of his disappointment, the encounter with Ethel had lifted his flagging spirit.

The next day, as the weary sun struggled through an unyielding cloud laden winter dawn, The Liverpool Lady set sail for New York.



The Bit Characters

15 Feb


As my story progresses, more and more characters are nudging their way in.  Wherever I take the main characters, I find others waiting for a debut.  Often they appear with some useful information to help move the story along, or a remark which casts light on the appearance or perception of the protagonist.

I find these bit part characters to be fascinating; the drunk on a bar stool, a buxom barmaid called Edith and Gertie workhouse the nurse are among the characters who just popped in to deliver a message and have now woven their way into the plot.







Getting Organised

14 Feb


A friend recently asked me if I know what happens at the end of my novel. Of course I know what happens at the end, and could have told the story in a thousand words, but my challenge is to tell it in at least fifty thousand.

This week has been a school holiday and since I had no plans to travel, I have devoted the time to writing.  Rising early to grapple with a stagnant plot which needed a breakthrough in order to move to the next phase. I needed to get organized.  Here’s what I did:

  • I printed a hard copy of the work so far
  •  read through it and decided where each chapter should begin and end,
  • made notes about character links and descriptions within each chapter and stapled them to the chapters for ongoing reference
  • arranged the chapters along the dining table and studied their content
  • it occurred to me that the novel would work better if it began with chapter three, thus eliminating a lot of the early writing, the content of which can be revealed gradually as the story progresses

This visual organization, which took a morning to complete on the first day of my writing week, enabled me to loosely plan the following chapters and get on with the task.



Why I am writing a novel.

12 Feb

My novel has been in production for a very long time.  I started writing it when my children were in Primary School and I am now a Grandma. However, I haven’t given up and am determined to complete it this year.

I am writing the book as a memorial to my Great Aunt Catherine who was confined to the Liverpool Workhouse for two years, together with her brothers, one of whom became my granddad.  The brothers survived to lead long, productive lives, but Catherine died of TB aged only nineteen.  A brief, troubled life about which we know very little.

The story marries fact with fiction and is my attempt to make sense of what happened to Catherine and many more like her in nineteenth century Liverpool, an era that witnessed extremes of wealth and poverty in Liverpool.

This is what keeps me writing and each time I post an extract, I am keeping her memory alive, even if I am the only reader.