So here we in full lockdown once more. Oh boy! But we will get through it again even if our mojos go awol again, as mine did last time when I found it increasingly difficult to want either to paint or write. I took some comfort in the knowledge many fellow artists and writers were in the same predicament which, considering all the time we had available to us, should have meant the opposite. Some gave up trying altogether, others bided their time but some, such as my guest today, took the opportunity to try their hand something new. So I am delighted to welcome professional artist LAINA WEST into Kit’s Library to tell us what inspired her to want to write a novel, and give a little insight into the background behind the fascinating story within her book and her journey thus far.
Usually I paint. During lockdown though, the painting muse had other ideas and, try as I might I couldn’t raise any enthusiasm.
For a few months I’d been researching a story of a woman who had been accused three times of witchcraft in the 1640s here in Southwold and I confess I’d become rather obsessed. Instead of the stereotypical ‘old crone’ I found that Ann Camell would have been around my age when she was accused. She was the second wife of a local merchant so not poor or widowed as so many accused women were and she had seven children with her husband plus took on two young step-children. My constantly questioning brain burst into action. How did she avoid execution? Why was she accused in the first place? What could her story have been – all these things were buzzing round my brain and so ‘This Fearful Thing’ was born.
I have had no experience of writing since leaving school fifty years ago and it took me a long time to get going. I wasn’t sure how to even start. Then I read somewhere that ‘in order to write you have to write’ so I sat down and just started typing.
I soon found that I wasn’t sure how to construct chapters or to put a book together so I took a six-week online course with Curtis Brown Creative called ‘Write to the End of Your Novel’. This was a great help and through it I ‘met’ two other budding writers and we formed a Trusted Reader group. I can’t tell you how helpful this has been and it kept us all writing during the darkest days of lockdown. We exchanged chapters each Friday by email and agreed to give ‘no-holds-barred’ critiques. It worked a treat and by August I’d completed my first draft – 98,000 words! I took a second CBC course, ‘Edit & Pitch Your Novel’ and began to think that, just maybe, I was on to something. I completed a thorough edit, wrote a synopsis then decided to pay for a professional editorial report via Jerico Writers. I also sent it out to two beta readers, gave it to my husband and sat back and relaxed.
A couple of weeks later and I received an email from one of my beta readers. Very apologetically she said that she hadn’t been able to read past the middle because it was giving her sleepless nights! An hour later my editorial report arrived. It was very comprehensive but the overall advice was that I had tried to cram too much in and she recommended that I lose the first fourteen (yes, fourteen!) chapters. Two sleepless nights and three days feeling totally fed up I started to read past the negatives and realised that she said I could write well and that I had a compelling story and that any alterations were structural.
So here I am, back to the drawing board. I literally wiped off the first chapter as suggested, started a new document and am now trying to piece together the storyline by using flashbacks. It’s not easy but I can see already she was right. The novel is tighter and more dramatic for starting the action earlier and, better still, I’m enjoying the challenge. The more I push on with this the more determined I am that it sees the light of day. And I’ve enjoyed every minute!
Thank you so much, Laina, for such an interesting post. It’s always fascinating to learn how writers start out, often a long and difficult journey for the first-time writer as there are many things to discover and understand about the craft, often a steep learning curve. I hope that you will persevere with the rewrites, a task authors love and loathe at the same time but a necessary one. I look forward to hearing how your work progresses and hope you will return to tell us more in due course. As the saying goes: if you don’t try, you’ll never know what you can achieve. Laina’s post is an inspiration to us all.
Don’t forget, if you’d like to write a Guest Post for Kit Domino’s World, be it on Loving Life or about writing, books, reading, blog tours or book releases for Kit’s Library, please contact me.
My heart skipped a beat when you said fourteen chapters. That is a very hard thing to do and I applaud you for realizing that this was only structural and diving back in. The premise sounds intriguing. You’ve made me curious about how the heroine escaped execution. I wish you every luck with this story.
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Yes, I gulped when Laina said 14 chapters! But can understand that in a first novel; one always seems to write everything and anything into the first. I did the same in my first (not published) book. Even in “White Stones” when first written the first 3 chapters were backstory which I later deleted. One learns as through the experience of writing more what is relevant information and what is not needed. I am confident Laina will get there. I too am curious to find out how the heroine survives, so I hope she perseveres with it.