INSPIRATIONS and INFLUENCES – THE BOOK THAT INSPIRED ME TO WRITE
“This is how the entire course of a life can be changed: by doing nothing.” Quote from Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach
Twelve years ago, I stayed up all night to finish Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach. What drew me to it, apart from the superbly drawn characters, and descriptions that put me right in the lime woods of Oxfordshire, was what I perceived to be a lack of plot. Of course, I later discovered when I started writing myself that it was only an apparent lack of plot. It seemed to me that the story was about the character arcs of Florence and Edward and the natural flaws that led them to that seminal moment where, if only she’d called out, or he’d looked round. “This is how the entire course of a life can be changed: by doing nothing.”
The day after I’d read it, still in the fizzy after-haze of lack of sleep, I sat down to begin my first attempt at a novel. For years I’d had the impulse to write but whilst I felt able to create characters, probably derived from constantly inventing siblings for myself as a young only child, I could never imagine devising a plot. So here was my answer. Just make it about two people. Ha! Indeed! On Chesil Beach is certainly character driven but there is still a structure, a plot and sub-plots. Who knew!
Fingers poised over the keyboard, I began…and faltered after one paragraph. First person or third? Tense? Point of View? It took me three years of reading, researching and experimenting with all of the above to even begin to find my voice. My first attempt, The Camwood Flower, remains in the “bottom drawer” of my laptop, to be revived and completely rewritten one day – maybe. It did, however, form the backstory to the first novel I actually completed two years ago, The Nacimiento Road.
So, on that day, twelve years ago, I did something, and it did alter the course of my life: I started writing. I persevered, and I’m still writing now, my third novel, The Sea Blue Shawl. To accommodate my writing, I’ve changed my sleeping pattern and I now go to bed early, around 9:30pm, and rise at 4:30am, so that I can write for at least an hour every morning before heading off to work. Most of us would rather stick pins in our eyes than get up at four in the morning but if you want to write and you have a full-time job or a family, or both, then it’s an option. It’s one I recommend to anyone out there feeling inspired but time-restricted.
Writing a novel is wonderful, hellish, frustrating, fun, engulfing, difficult, and can be isolating until you begin to make friends with other writers. It’s filled in equal amounts with euphoria and heartbreak, but is there anything quite like it? Not for me.
I continue to be inspired and influenced by the books that I read, by other writers, and by the array of professionals who inform the research for my stories. It is thoughts about these books, people and experiences that I hope to share on this blog on Tuesday mornings at 6am. In so doing, I hope to hear what inspires and influences others.
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