For years I have been encouraging writing students to ask questions of their writing. Who's story is it? Where is it set? What happens in the end? It's advisable to ask these before and/or during the process.
Once a story is written, it's not a bad idea to ask yourself a different set of questions. Why did you write that particular story? How did you write it? What sort of story has it become?
This is the stage I'm at with my novel Secret of the Song. It isn't available yet, but one way or another it will be in the not too distant future, so I thought I'd share the what, why and how of it here.
Everyone knows that typing the ninety thousand words or so of a novel takes bloomin' ages, but the actual beginning is a long time before the fingers reach for the keyboard.
My novel really began a couple of decades ago, because of a dream. Yes, I know it's a cliché. It wasn't a dream about writing a novel, it was a dream about singing. In fact it was lots of dreams about singing. For about three months I would wake up having spent the night in song. Either I was singing, on stage, shower, in the car, or I was teaching singing (not so impossible, I am a music teacher by profession). Every sort of music was covered in my dreams, rock, pop, opera, musicals, solo songs, until one morning I woke up and thought, duh - maybe it was time I did some actual singing.
I joined a chamber choir, and it was there that I came across the extraordinary Don Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa. His rather discordant and difficult madrigals (part-songs of the Renaissance period), had been championed by Stravinsky in the middle of the C20th. They were the work of a genius, he'd said, not a madman.
If you ask me, it's not all that easy to tell the difference. Listen to this. Remember this is the C16th not the C20th.
The thing about Gesualdo that's extraordinary, apart from the music, and apart from the craziness and the terrible crime, is that so many people who hear his story feel the need to re-create it in some form or other. There have been myriad books, operas, ballets, documentaries and movies made about the man, the music and, of course, the murders.
I got hooked too. Secret of the Song is the result. Not that I knew it then. A lot more was to happen before I began writing the novel. I had to learn to write first and that will be the subject of Chapter 2.
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