6th January, 11:35
I’m starting a new weekly blog series all about my upcoming novel ‘Beyond’:
When 14-year-old Alex’s sister Jenna is diagnosed with cancer, his world turns upside-down. And alongside family drama, a horrible school bully and an awkward crush, he can’t stop thinking about his sister… What’s going to happen to her when she dies? Where will she go? Will she be safe? He has to find out.
It’ll cover my writing process, ideas and themes behind the book, how I got a publishing deal and all that good stuff! These blog posts will be published every Sunday. So, without further ado, let’s get into week one of Behind The Scenes of ‘Beyond’: My Writing Journey.
The original idea for ‘Beyond’ came to me when lying in bed one night (I know, cliché). I’m not sure how alone I am in this, but sometimes I’m just sat minding my own business and a sudden thought hits me: I’m going to die one day. We all are. And what does that mean? Does that mean long, dark nothingness forever? Does it mean floating around watching the world go by? Does it mean a place in Heaven with an omniscient ruler? I don’t know. And it’s that thought of not knowing that scares me; I’m sure it scares plenty of us. And anyway, as I was lying there, I thought (hopefully at least!) it’s not a fear I have to address right now. But there are millions of people not as lucky. So I thought, hey, why don’t I write about this? And why don’t I write about it through someone else’s eyes?
That’s how I ended up with my protagonist, Alex. I’ve found stories of tragedy and loss are often relayed from a female perspective. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but as I wrote, I felt writing from a 14 year old boy’s perspective brought a whole new attitude to the idea of finding an answer to what’s beyond this life. He thought of things I never could, dealt with loss and disappointment in whole new ways; writing it was just as much an adventure as (I hope!) reading it will be.
Once I’d got Alex, it was a case of piecing the plot together like a puzzle. It didn’t take me long to decide it would be his sister that was ill, and that she would have ovarian cancer. Though I’ve personally had no family members/friends diagnosed with this illness, I was still touched by the amount of stories shared online and in the media about this form of cancer; did you know 6 in 10 ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed late in the UK? (source here). It’s an illness that needs more attention, no doubt about it. So, once I’d mapped out the main characters and the central theme that was it – I was off, writing my first real novel.
And that’s it; I didn’t plan, I didn’t scrutinise details. I just sat and wrote and somehow, miraculously, it all came together. Obviously there were points in which I had to go off and research things – I almost always had the Cancer Research website open in one of my gazillion tabs. And, as I’m sure all writers find, I sat and read through my first draft and thought what the hell? But I revised; I added and took away, I invented a couple more characters and took some background ones out. One of the most helpful things I did was posted sections as I went along for the world to see. I’m fortunate enough to be part of ‘Write Club’, The Open University’s creative writing club, so I managed to waggle a lot of great feedback and comments as I posted chapter by chapter. If you’re an OU student, I’d definitely recommend joining – click here to check out their page.
This is the first full-length story I’ve ever written (yes, I am a Creative Writing student – don’t judge me). I’m not going to pretend it was easy in the slightest; yes, I loved and believed in my work all the way along, but the hardest thing I found was staying motivated and finding the time. I worked 20+ hours a week and studied full time with the OU whilst writing, which meant sometimes ‘What’s Beyond’ had to take a back seat. But, better it take a back seat than be thrown out the car entirely, right?
So, there I was, 10 months later, slightly crazy with a bad back, a completed manuscript in front of me. What did I do next? Find out next Sunday in my Behind The Scenes series!