Oranges and Lemons | The Good and the Bad in Writing by Paula F. Andrews

Jessifer Jordan has always been loyal and open, and her love of acting has made her an expert in pretence. So, when six-year old Victorian ghost, Adeline, appears in her life and Jess’s best friend won’t believe her, deceit becomes Jess’s natural ally. Previously fun-loving and sociable, she becomes serious and isolated in her quest to discover what Adeline really wants. Always curious, she finds herself whisked back in time to 1863 and into the clutches of a volatile doctor with an obsession for morphine. As she journeys back and forth into the past, she realises that Adeline provokes memories of her dead sister and her submerged grief resurfaces.

Will her great aunt Ruby’s counsel help her? Can she outwit the deranged medic? And whose is that smoky cat which keeps turning up out of the blue?

The Good and the Bad in Writing
by Paula F Andrews

Before I start, I must pay homage to the title of Luna’s blog: isn’t it delicious? It conjures up images of innocence, carefree days and childlike delight.

Well, now I’ve published my debut novel, my writing life has changed considerably. I love writing. I always have. When I began writing seriously, as a calculated career change, I thought, Isn’t this fabulous? I get to sit at my desk looking out on the garden, feeling inspired by the trilling of robins and the chirping of blackbirds, creating ‘other’ worlds and, effectively, playing. Okay, playing with words and images but a form of diversion, nonetheless. In fact, I’ve just looked up some synonyms of ‘play’ and I see words like frolic, caper, even mess around.

And they do seem appropriate for the ‘work’ I’ve chosen, particularly because I mainly write fiction for children. And, indeed, when I’m writing stories, I do frolic, caper and mess around. I’ve even found myself crawling about the floor in order to see things from a child’s point of view! (Trust me, things look a lot different from down there. You should try it!) So that’s the Good of writing for me.

What I didn’t consider was how other things might begin to wheedle their way into my happy existence if I were to achieve any degree of success! The Bad things. And, lately, these have barged into my life like bullies, relentlessly demanding attention. Things like business plans, promotion and admin! For me, these are not just boring but also awkward, troublesome and threatening. Exactly like bullies.  And the worst part is, I feel as if I’m becoming like them. Because I’ve learned that I must persist in doing things which feel totally against my nature, such as pestering people to leave reviews and engaging in various forms of self-promotion.

Promotion isn’t all bad, though. There are the bits of I enjoy, like doing events and talks. I find I can get into the characters of my book and bring them to life; I can bring atmosphere to a scene through expression and intonation; and I enjoy sharing my writing tips and processes in the same way others have shared with me.

My writing life was enriched enormously, several years ago when I joined a writers’ group and for anyone else trying to progress or improve their writing, I would highly recommend doing the same. There are plenty out there in various forms, some online, some which are critique groups only and some, like mine, encompassing all aspects of writing and with fantastic guest speakers who bring advice and inspiration aplenty.

Which takes me back to where I started. Inspiration. Mine comes from many things. It’s often a silly conversation around the dinner table; or a news item; or something I’ve seen while out and about. (I once had a surreal experience in the city where I live when, all on the same day, while waiting for someone in the city square, I saw a couple with a pair of rabbits on leads, a troupe of stilt walkers preparing for an upcoming festival and a drunk fella drinking from a bottle ‘concealed’ in a paper bag.)

Once I have an idea, my first task is familiarisation with my main character. I draw their family tree. I look at significant dates in their life. I fill in a character sheet describing their traits, hobbies and preferences. I find out what motivates them and who is important to them. I end up feeling as if I really know them and they can even infiltrate my dreams!

The next part for me is usually to plot out a pictorial idea of the storyline. I use A3 sheets of paper which I pin up in my writing room.

I then try to write a beginning, although sometimes other scenes pop into my head which I flesh out and save for slotting in at the right time. They might get used or they might get cut but they essentially help me get to know my characters more intimately.

When I meet obstacles in my story, I turn to the big sheets of paper again, thrashing out the blockage with mind maps and brain storming and lots of coloured pens! There you go! Playing again!

Now, my writing week is split in half. I use the first half (well three days, actually) for new writing which includes continuing a work-in-progress. And I use the other two days for the bits I like less: the marketing, promotion and business side of things. Invariably, though, I can always persuade myself that writing, the Good, is what it’s all about. Surely the Bad can wait?

 

Paula drew her inspiration from a real-life York landmark. “I had a Saturday job in Stonegate, a street steeped in history – where Mulberry Hall (home of the child-ghost in Oranges and Lemons) is situated – and learned of the vague legend of a Victorian child who tugged on shop assistants’ clothing,” explains Paula. “Taken with the idea of this friendly little ghost with a very sketchy history, I decided to fill in the detail myself. The sad closing of Mulberry Hall China Shop and Café three years ago, after 60 years of trading, was a shock for locals in York. The china shop was much loved and had an important place in York’s heart and history.”


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