Take It From The Top

So, the editing’s done. The main text of my novel is ready for uploading. That has been a surprising outcome of being rendered more or less stationary for the last three weeks. Silver linings and all that jazz.

It has been an interesting experience – going back to the beginning and starting again. Remembering where my mind was as I got going, with no conscious intention to write a novel at that stage. I began by tackling an exercise in class – a few outlines for a character, a single plot-line, and suddenly, there was Helen on her way to an audition. All the potential one could possibly need for almost any kind of novel.

But I’d always fancied having a go at a murder mystery. (This from the woman who’d only ever written a single short story in her entire life.) So I thought I’d ‘throw in a dead body’ and see what happened. Imagine my amazement as a plot began to unfold in front of me.

Okay, so now I need a detective, I thought. All good crimewriters have a personal detective, who seems to be a loose extension of the author. Oh well, that’s easy then. My detective will live on Skye. The place I have always wanted to live since discovering it in a children’s novel, many moons ago. Well, if it’s not somewhere I can live in reality just yet, it’s definitely somewhere I can live in fantasy. I know the island really well, having visited often over the years. I may not be able to live on it, but it certainly lives in me.

Unfortunately, they don’t have detectives on Skye. There’s no need. They survive perfectly adequately with a small community police force based at the single station in Portree. How to make my plot realistic, then? I went on-line for my first bit of research. How amazing that, at the very time Katriona McShannon became a reality in my head, the Scottish police were re-organising themselves into something called Police Scotland, with a group of ‘heavy-weight’ detectives making up a team to be known as the Serious Crime Division. In the Highlands, the team would be based at Inverness, with experts called in as required.

It couldn’t be better. Katriona could easily be part of this team, acting as a part-time detective consultant, (well, Lewis is only a consultant these days, isn’t he?) which gives me plenty of scope to explore the other aspects of her life if I want to, as well as discovering how she arrived in this unusual position. Aha! Now I have a history to create, as well as a potentially difficult scenario to resolve. If the murder has happened in London (the original plot-line from class), how is it going to be investigated by a detective on Skye?

Enter Gavin – Katriona’s former colleague when she worked in London, before she had to take early retirement due to ill-health … By the time I’d got here, you can probably see I was ‘well-hooked’, and round about chapter four, I knew I was in it for the long haul.

It has been fascinating for me, over the last couple of weeks or so, to go back and remember how it all began – and to see whether I still like what I wrote. There have, of course, been whole sections that have needed re-doing in some way. That’s inevitable, and it’s proved to be an interesting exercise in itself. But there have also been huge parts of the book which I’d forgotten (yes, I know that sounds incredible) and which I’ve thoroughly  enjoyed re-reading, even occasionally thinking:  ‘How on earth did I come up with that?’

What has been most gratifying is the discovery that the further I got into the book, the less I felt the need to edit. I hope this demonstrates I’m getting a handle on how to do this writing stuff, rather than getting better at self-delusion!

So, onto the next bit: formatting, choosing a title, acquiring a book cover, writing a ‘blurb’, creating keywords, applying for an ISBN and a US EIN, writing front pages, writing back pages, …

Maybe I need to get that walking stick out again.


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