How moveable the life a writers can be! I have gone from having one completed novel and one novel in progress to having three novels in progress! How did this happen I hear you ask.
With some trepidation I dug deep into the semi-retirement funds and sent my Vivaldi’s Lost Concerto novel off for a Manuscript Assessment. The feedback was both reassuring and unsettling. In short she felt that the tow strands – contemporary and historical were too different to appeal to the one reader. Without going into the details the feedback has led me to revamp the novel into two.
The first is carried by the contemporary story, of Fiona Sinclair, a petty criminal and recovering drug addict, on her journey of uncovering the mystery of the how she already knows the only recently discovered Concerto. Her journey is fraught with difficulties as she desperately trying to extricate herself from the shackles of her past. The mystery is unfolded for the reader, and eventually for Fiona, as the novel dips into the historical events, both real and fictionalised, that contributed to the Concerto’s public disappearance for three hundred years.
The second novel will now flesh out the lives of those two historical characters, namely Lord Robert Kerr and Paolina Giro ( sister to Vivaldi’s protégé and maybe much more!) bringing to life the romance, politics and culture of 18th century Venice and Scotland.
Having just returned home from the Conference, tired and fulfilled, I am even more in awe of those authors who go through to publication. Talking to both published and aspiring authors has reminded me why I began writing and resulted in me making many new contacts that I can share the journey with.
With so many panels and workshops it is hard to pinpoints the most significant take home messages but I'll give it a go.:
Kate Forsyth said authors are Storytellers, Teachers and Enchanters. Getting the right balance of those, especially in historical fiction where the research can get in the way of the story, is critical. In fact Barbara Gaskell Denvil said the research is for the author only.
The First Glances: First Pages Contest, where a panel of publishers analysed several short synopsis and first pages of some brave individuals, taught me that publishers need to see in those first pages at least the beginnings of what your synopsis said the story was about. It was also evident that whilst there was quite a lot of agreement, at times what one publisher loved another would discard.
Sophie Masson impressed me with not only the breadth of her writing but also her passion for sharing with others. She herself sent a poem to A.D. Hope when she was just a teenager and was rewarded with his kind and considered feedback.
Lucy Treloar talked about her life on the move and how now she is most comfortable when she is an outsider- a theme she explores so deftly in Salt Creek. She also revealed that she does not love writing but it is a chore she cannot resist.
A panel discussed the issue of The Outlander Effect - Parallel Narratives. How to get the voice right and, in response to a question of mine, how to ensure you have a consistent genre?
A common theme throughout was exploring can we avoid looking at historical event through the current day prism? How we can tune into the beliefs and cultures of the time through reading the newspapers, letters and fiction of the era. Understanding too however whose voices were not recorded. And then how can we write that story with authenticity as opposed to truth.
I loved the sessions that discussed using artefacts to help carry the story e.g. letters (either real or fictional), fabrics, pottery, etc.. (A technique that I am drawn to already in both my novels.)
All in all a smorgasbord of ideas, skill development and fun.
Jennifer is a writer of short stories, novels and a family history.