Friday, 19 October 2012

The Rule of Three

It's not every day you fulfil a lifetime's ambition but today I am that woman.

A very long time ago, at what would now be regarded as a very antiquated school for rather nice young ladies in Royal Leamington Spa (think St Trinians but with longer skirts and less make-up) a dwarfish, flat-chested fourteen year old dared to dream. She was utterly convinced - though no members of the English department, nor even less her friends, shared her conviction - that one day she would write a novel. Today that novel - albeit unpublished and unread - has been completed.

Funnily enough, the unpublished and unread aspects of this don't matter at this point. For me, the great act of will was to write it. For most of my adult life, I've been making up stories in my head and, for the most part, that's where they've stayed. In the early days, when I was a teenager, I would feature as the heroine - something which kept me going when other aspects of my life had less heroic qualities. As I got older, I would create stories about the strangers I would see on trains, in cafes, in their cars at traffic lights... Ask my beloved: he'll tell you how I made up a whole crime/drugs story based on the people sitting round the swimming pool at a hotel we were staying at in Bangkok nearly thirty years ago. Even now, I can entertain my youngest by telling her tales of strangers' lives that we see when we're out and about.

I've tried writing short stories for children. A couple even progressed as far as being sent to publishers but they landed with a dull thud and were heard of no more. Then about twenty years ago I started a novel really in earnest. I wrote a few thousand words which I still have, having transferred them from computer to computer as all things technical have progressed. But, although the plot is complete in my head, it's never got any further than that.

Then fast-forward to a couple of years ago when someone told me of an experience he had had as a very young child. It was arresting and, like looking at strangers and making up a whole back-story for them, I found myself germinating a complete plot based on the events leading up to this man's childhood experience. As time went on, the experience became less and less as he had described it but that was the tiny seed that set me on my way.

Then two other things occurred making the 'things happen in threes' or 'the rule of three' as it is more correctly known or even the Latin, omne trium perfectum (because I've just looked it up and I love it when we can all expand our craniums) have a satisfying ring of truth. One of these other two things was this: my blog. I write it and amazingly, people read it. Not just my friends (who are obviously very nice and polite and supportive about it) but people I've never met, in foreign countries I've never visited. And writing this has helped me to find my Voice. 

Which brings me neatly to the third thing. For my birthday last year, I thought (because if there was an Olympic event in birthday present-buying, my beloved would win it) that I would be getting tickets to either a rugby international at Twickenham or, even better,  the tennis in Rome. Nope, he had finally called my bluff. He gave me a week on a writing course in darkest West Yorkshire with a group of complete strangers (some stranger than others, let me tell you...) who could and did write. I went (because I couldn't think of any excuse not to, otherwise I would have bottled) and spent a terrifying week with these people, some of whom are now my friends. Who'd have thought it?

On the course there was a lot of talk about Voice which is, as far as I can remember, the unique style of writing prose which each of us have. This, obviously, is mine. Anyway I went on my writing course with the plots for two novels - the one I started twenty years ago and never finished and the one now very loosely based on my friend's childhood experience. The very patient and proper-published authors who were tutors that week told me to write the latter and I came home half a stone slimmer (nerves does that to me) on a mission to write it in a year. 

Well, fifteen months later it is done. As I said, unpublished and unread, and since my beloved absolutely deserves to have the final yay or nay on whether it ever sees the light of day, he will be reading it first. But I do have a slight sense of giddiness about having finished it. Perhaps I should write THE END.

Postscript: To save anyone asking later: no, you are not in it and it is not autobiographical. Hmmm... now that's given me an idea...

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