How Times Have Changed (and the Novel the Wasn’t)

I have mentioned previously that I have attempted novels before The Road Elsewhere. When I started my MA in creative writing I knew this was an excellent opportunity to have my first proper bash. But I also had the feeling I should take the chance to have a stab at being a ‘proper writer’ (or so I perceived it then). I was surrounded by many talented novelists, poets and academics and I felt it was time to put away what I feared would be considered childish and have a go at writing, if not literary fiction (I knew I couldn’t manage that) then at least general fiction that went a bit deep and dark.

(On a side note I have grown since then and have realised you should write what you enjoy and not worry so much about what others will think. The appropriate audience for your novel will find it and trying to be something you’re not is more trouble than it’s worth and leaves you and your audience unsatisfied. I have also realised that if I had decided to write Fantasy, Science Fiction or even Paranormal Erotic Romance at university, the amazing band of people I worked with would have encouraged and supported me and not thought less of me as a writer. But I still think it was good to have a go at what I perceived as ‘proper writing’…even if all it did was show me that I don’t enjoy it enough to continue. Or that I haven’t lived long enough to have an interesting story to tell in this vein.)

To cut to the chase I ended up with 16,000 words of well-edited novel opening that I submitted for my MA portfolio.  I then sweated, bled and cried over for about 6 months after finishing the degree.  I had put so much work into it that I didn’t want it to die, but I felt like I was pushing a telegraph pole up a hill. Vertically. In the rain.

It ground to a bone-jarring halt and no matter how much I begged my brain to cooperate I couldn’t come up with what happened next.

And so I gave up on it. I don’t think I’ve even looked at it since. I didn’t really believe that even the ‘taking some distance’ magic that can often work miracles with abandoned projects could save this one. Mainly probably because up until this point I hadn’t abandoned anything I’d put so much work into.

So I shelved it without much hope of returning to it.

However, whilst hunting up some of my older short stories, I found the synopsis. Reading through it I didn’t feel bitter or even forlorn at the novel that never was. I was…intrigued.

It has been years. But I think years was what was needed. Tell a writer just starting out that if they want their failing project to succeed they may have to be prepared to put it aside for literally years before they might have grown enough or gained enough distance to be able to salvage it, I think most of them would head straight to bed with a whiskey bottle and a copy of Twilight and never look back.

But it’s true. And it’s worth it. And years, really, aren’t all that long. You only think they are when you’re young.

It goes without saying if I ever do decide to resurrect this project, it’s going to take a lot of work. My writing has changed immeasurably (I hope, for the better). There are also some clichés that will have to be worked on (the protagonist is a troubled artist for one) and I think in general the original plot I had in mind might need some major re-routing…but I think there’s potential after all…

I have pasted the synopsis below, so I can find out what you think.

Synopsis – Hoodwin

The story of Hoodwin is the story of Stefan Bridgeman moving back to the island of Sinclare and the village of Hoodwin, where he grew up. He left ten years before, following a series of incidents that led him to hate the place. However, following the death of his father and inheriting the house where he was born he is resolved to make a new and better life in Hoodwin, putting to rest the ghosts of his memory and returning to the countryside he remembers loving.

However, all too soon, he discovers that nothing is ever quite what it seems on Sinclare. The events he remembers from his last year of living on the island, which included the death of his best friend’s father and the breaking down of a relationship with the girl he loved, where just symptoms of a deep and sinister disease that tracks back through Sinclare history and which Stefan is inextricably caught up in.

The story explores the themes of family, friendship and the effect the past has on the future of places and people. At first Stefan embraces the feeling of being bound to Sinclare, identifying it as a feeling of homecoming that can lead to big and beautiful things, but he soon finds out the roots of his relationship with the place, as well as the things that happened there, are more powerful than is desirable.

The story also explores the way in which environment shapes and moulds the actions of those who inhabit it and raises the question of where darkness lies: in the landscape of the windswept and folklore-rife island, or in the manner in which people choose to interpret the landscape and history?

Despite everything, Stefan is determined to be in control of his own fate and to see the island as an artist’s paradise, lending his work an inexplicable new dimension, but this becomes more and more of a struggle as he discovers more about Hoodwin and how its events are directly related to his family.

He refuses to give up and run away like he did when he was sixteen but the more he finds out the more he wishes he was never born.

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2 Responses to How Times Have Changed (and the Novel the Wasn’t)

  1. D. James Fortescue says:

    An intriguing premise; gives me a ‘Silent Hill’ or ‘Eternal Darkness’ sense of foreboding when a locale had an adverse effect on a person.

    It would be an interesting exercise if you wrote a particular scene again, one you disliked before and may be able to do better now =)

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