It’s been on my mind for a couple of weeks that I need to write a blog post for my brand new website. I’m very excited to have my own place online; nearly as excited as I am about my upcoming book, Running in Circles. I’m thrilled that Sapere Books are publishing my novel and I’m really grateful to them for all they’ve done so far. So, I’ve been feeling determined that my first blog post ought to do justice to all of this excitement and to my appreciation for my amazing publishers, while also being exciting and entertaining.
Unfortunately, all of this has been difficult to achieve. Not only am I expecting a baby in a matter of weeks, I have just moved house with two small children and a snake. I’m living amongst the usual chaos of lost socks, spilled cereal and Peppa Pig episodes on at full blast, while also navigating my way through a maze of half unpacked boxes, confusing new household appliances and horrifying council tax bills. Sitting down at my computer has been a challenge. Trying to think of anything sane to write has been even harder.
But then I started thinking about how the madness of a house move is a lot like the madness of writing a novel. This may seem a bit tenuous but please hear me out. I’m currently writing this while surrounded by tokens from throughout my life, all mixed together chaotically, so that a booklet of poetry I contributed to during my student days is lying next to the hospital wristband I wore when my son was born. A scarf which I once wrapped around my face while lost on a snowy Cumbrian hillside is tangled up with the lanyard from a job I left seven years ago. A long-dead dog’s collar has been pushed into a drawer alongside the instructions for a trampoline I no longer own. All of these things make up the story of my life. They’re jumbled and out of order, but they’re here and they’re all important to me in their own way. And this, I think, is a lot like the crafting of a novel.
I don’t plan my pieces of writing in a very formal way; I begin writing with a single idea, and then other little ideas spring up around it and I try to capture them, put them into the right order and work out how they connect to each other and tell a story, create a world. Usually, my first draft is chaotic. There are bits that don’t work, there are characters and events which seem disconnected from each other, and the whole thing makes me feel a bit panicky. But when I sit down to start on a second draft, I can usually iron it out into some sort of order, and even if much of it has to be cut away, I discover the story inside it and, somehow, it all comes together to make something real.
It took me a long time, but I managed to craft a jumble of ideas into a novel, and now Running in Circles is a real book and will be released into the world on 27 December 2018. I can’t wait for people to read it. And in the meantime, while I wait for the release date, I’m going to unpack these boxes and have a baby.