Patsy Collins’ debut novel, Escape to the Country, will be published on 30th March 2012 and I am honoured to have Patsy visiting my blog today. I asked her a question I’m desperate to know the answer to. This is what she had to say:
A Writer on Writing, Reading and Life
Escape to the Country by Patsy Collins
Sally, thanks for inviting me onto your blog to answer your question – How did you make the transition from short stories to novels i.e. getting used to the increased depth needed for a novel.
Short answer – accidentally and gradually. I suppose you’re looking for increased depth in my answer and won’t let me get away with that?
When I was about thirteen, my best friend and I started writing a book together. We didn’t get very far and I suspect it probably wasn’t much good. (Alarmingly she claims to still have it.) Trouble is, it takes time and effort to write a book and most of our efforts were directed in other directions (some of those directions played rugby for the sixth form team)
I didn’t start writing again until about ten years ago, but once I got started I soon took it seriously. Probably I daydreamed about getting a novel published, but for quite a while it never occurred to me to start writing one. I worked on short stories for women’s magazines and did quite well with them. Don’t suppose I’ll stop writing them.
Then there was Mavis. I planned to write a short story in which she killed herself – I can’t now think why that seemed a good idea. Mavis didn’t want to die. I kept trying to kill her (once I get an idea, even a bad one, it takes me a while to let it go) This took up words. Eventually I realised I was no longer writing a short story and decided to turn it into a novel. It took a long time as I had no plan, no idea where it was going or how to get there. There’s 103,000 words of it now. I like it, but I’ve not yet found a publisher who shares my enthusiasm.
After I finished it, I found that although I still enjoyed writing short stories I missed having a big project to work on and decided to write another novel. I’d learned a lot from my first attempt and chose a subject and style much more like that of my short stories. I reasoned that if people liked the short ones, they might also like a longer one. The second novel was planned out (very roughly) and because I knew where I was headed it was much easier to get there. I haven’t yet sold that one either, but I reckon I might. Finally I got to Escape to the Country.
I haven’t answered the question have I? You’ll notice I’ve written a lot of words though. That’s how I build up a novel. There’s an answer or an end in sight, but I don’t go straight there. Events get in the way, characters turn up and complicate things, I fill in details that relate to or lead up to the answer, but which aren’t actually the answer.
So to go back to my first answer (the only one you get as it turns out) I made the move from short stories to novels accidentally and I add the depth gradually.
Thanks for the wise words, Patsy. It sounds like there’s no secret formula and no substitute for hard work – so I better stop blogging and start writing!
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