Part I: The Idea
Over the coming series of posts, I’d like to take you thought the stages of how I wrote The Place Between. What was involved, what it takes to write a book and the kinds of decisions that need to be made along the way.
We all have sat watching a movie or reading a book and thought: ‘Why did they do that?’ or ‘Why didn’t they do this?’ If you are anything like me these niggling thoughts are rapidly followed by the deadly and all too easy: ‘I would have done it this way’ or ‘I could write that in my sleep.’
As a person who has sat and criticised the work of others for perhaps not thinking through their plot points or creating work that is derivative, it is interesting to reflect on the process from the other side.
I want to begin with this. Writing a book isn’t easy. It’s not (for the vast majority at least) a matter of coming up with an idea and then writing it. Well it is. But let’s say, its’s not a straight forward matter of coming up with an idea and writing it. Have you every seen the swamp in The Never Ending Story? You know, the one where the horse dies? It’s like that. You enter into it imaging a great adventure and find yourself stuck in a sucking pit of mud that you have to get out of (because not finishing isn’t an option) but it’s claggy and sticky and could overwhelm you at any minute. At least it was for me.
Over the next set of posts, I’m going to take you through MY process for writing THIS book, rather than a ‘how to’ for writing in general. I don’t quite know yet if this is my process for writing all books but I have an inkling that the general vibe will be the same, with each book having its own specific trajectory.
I am going to try and be as linear as I can as I walk you through from the spark of an idea, to the moment I held the physical book in my hands. Bear with me. There was a twelve-year gap between those two things and I may get a little muddled along the way.
I want to share with you some of the changes and the sacrifices (writing wise) I’ve made to get to the end. And also, to give you an insight into ‘Why I did that’ as best I can. I will show you some small sections of early drafts and some sections of late drafts that were changed right at the end of the process so you can see that the idea was the same but the execution and the structure changed significantly.
I might even bore you (suckers) with some snippets from my thesis that helps quantify and discuss what I was trying to achieve in writing this book.
I committed to doing a PhD in creative writing before I had an idea for the book that would one day form the creative practice element of my thesis. I spent the first few months (while pregnant) searching for an idea. I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to strike, or toying with many different projects to see which one settled. I had to find a story and once I’d find it, ideally, I had to stick with it.
I know without a doubt that if I hadn’t had the pressure of deadlines and milestones at University this book would not exist.
The idea for The Place Between began as a small kernel centred around character. Specifically, the protagonist, Sarah and her mother Beryl. It grew from a single conversation overheard at Perth airport between a couple in their sixties. The woman (who later became Beryl) was complaining to her husband (who became Bruce) that their daughter (who became Sarah) never made them pudding when they went to visit.
That’s the entire basis of The Place Between.
This is something I think we all do. We all hear conversations or see a scene play out around us and our minds explain and contextualise what we are seeing through the lens of our own experiences and viewpoints.
In my next post I will talk about how this single snippet of daily life grew from an observed snapshot of strangers to become a set of constantly nattering menaces in my head for the next ten years.