I’m writing a novel. Really, honestly, and this is the problem. I’m a jobbing writer, doing bits and pieces of freelance all over the place to ease the financial strain, but really, really, all I want to do is write my novel.
This novel is important, not just because it’s a prerequisite to achieve a PhD, but it’s a really good story. It’s based on a true story, a story that someone told me once, and when I heard it, the hair stood up all over my body, and I felt chills. I wanted to know what happened, and as the story unfolded, I knew, with a deep certainty, that this was a story that needed a wider audience.
It’s a novel, because I chose to write a novel. I’m no biographer, and a biography would be nothing like a novel in terms of scope, and emotive power. I could do things with this story, make it come alive, give a voice to so much that has been silent, and hidden. Stories take on a life of their own, it’s true, and this one was mapped for me before I began. I knew the beginning, and I almost knew the end. So I took the story for my own, and wrote a novel about a British woman, who may or may not have had some things in common with me, who was forced by circumstances into marrying a Saudi Arabian man, and moving to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Intrigued? I was.
The story started like this… no, I’m not going to tell, not yet. But it started with a LOT of research. How much did I know about Islam, Saudi Arabia, deserts, Arabic culture… ? Very little, it turns out. Not that I’m an expert now, but I do have a few insights. Let’s just say, I had to start from the middle, and work forwards and backwards to make my characters and my story come alive.
This blog is about writing – writing in general, and writing this novel in particular. I’m supposed to write a critical commentary on the process of writing the novel, to submit for the PhD. So I’ve been keeping a diary, of processes, and crucial decisions, about writing this book.
It’s not my first attempt at a novel. I have two completed novellas, one completed novel, and two half-completed genre novels that I eventually abandoned because the little voice telling the story disappeared somewhere around the middle point. I have a raft of short stories I wrote a long time ago. And I have this, my magnum opus, the story to end all stories, the novel, the tale that had to be told.
So I’ve been working like crazy to clear some space in my schedule to focus on the novel. I have other stuff pending, deadlines every day the following week, but still, it’s Saturday, son and partner are out for the morning, won’t be back until after lunch. This is my time, my space, time to write!
I make a cup of tea – strong, dark tea with just a splash of milk, in my favourite china mug with the blue flowers, and carry it through to the study. I enter the room, which smells of herbs and incense and books, set down my tea, adding to the pattern of rings, and place my nice shiny new laptop in front of me. Two minutes to boot up – don’t you love Windows 7? I open the file. The voices are calling to me, right now, and I want to lose myself again in the story. But I have to be disciplined.
There is a note on the desk, my scribbled instructions to myself. What to fix. What to look at. It says:
More of what it feels like
I’ll leave you guessing as to what the rest of the novel is about.