Monday, 7 December 2015

My NaNoWriMo (Part 2)

Well, I've had the weekend to pluck up courage since writing Part 1, so here goes...

It all began with this

A couple of months ago, I requested an intuitive painting from the very talented Jane Lee Horton. Her Etsy shop 'This Unfolding' is closed at the moment as she's moving house, but I thoroughly recommend checking it out when it re-opens :) As well as this beautiful painting, Jane wrote a letter about what she 'saw', and this inspired the main character of my novel.

Jane said the figure's name was Francis, and she was/is a Carmelite nun, so originally I called the novel 'Francis'... Then, as the story progressed, it become 'Harm None' and eventually I chose this

Essentially, the story is about Francis and her life in a convent in the seventeenth century. A lot of the details I kept vague, as I didn't really know where the story was going. But she entered the convent at 14, and 20+ years later she's in an unsure place spiritually.

I was keen to explore her interior world, as Francis developed horticultural skills over the years - her convent library had a copy of Hildegard of Bingen's Physica - and Francis was fascinated by plants and their healing properties.

One day, while foraging in a nearby wood, Francis comes across Andela, a Romany traveller and her horse and caravan camped in a clearing. Managing to overcome her fears, Francis begins a tentative friendship with Andela, the gypsy's gentle, open manner encouraging deep conversation. So begins Francis' exploration of another's worldview, where crystals, dreams and tarot cards take the place of unquestioning faith in the Church's teaching.

The other main character is Lucie Smith, a clerk in the county council's office, but who's passion is art. One day, after work, Lucie paints a face that has been in her mind all day (this painting!). That night she dreams of the nun. The next evening she draws a highly detailed building and grounds, which eventually she discovers is Francis' convent, now a plush country hotel...

So begin encounters in dreams and reveries of two women across the centuries - a connexion between like-minded souls... Anyone who knows me, can see that all three women are aspects of me and my interests, and I love the idea that time and place are no barrier to 'real' connexion.

As I said in the first NaNo post, I struggled to sustain the story over the 30 days - often losing my train of thought - and I really struggled with the transitions, getting the characters to be in certain places at certain times... But I know I have the beginnings of a story, and I loved the company of these characters, and if I were to revise/edit this story in the future, I know I'd enjoy getting to know them better, 'fleshing out' the details of them and their lives.

And while I didn't get to this part in my 30-days scribbling, I 'know' that Francis will eventually be branded a witch, because of her work with plants, and some how Andela will help her escape; and Lucie will struggle with what's 'real' as her encounters with Francis become more frequent... I can picture elements of these scenes, but they need to be written, and rewritten, to firm them up in my mind.

It's a curious past-time, this story-writing lark, but I can see why people do it and become obsessed with it. Creating worlds and characters is quite addictive - especially if 'real-life' isn't that exciting - but boy, getting it all down on paper is bl**dy hard work and NOT for the faint-hearted!


  1. This sounds intriguing I hope you continue to work with it. Writing is hard that Is a certainty. After trying a novel we can truly appreciate what authors do to bring their creations to life. I have always thought of Nanowrimo as draft 0. So there are several rewrites waiting in the wings. Your story will grow and evolve and change as it should. Take a break and then pick the threads back up and see where it takes you.


    1. Thanks so much for this, Kate :)
      I may pick it up next year - though it needs typing up first! But I sense I have A LOT to learn about novel-writing... I feel the characters are clear in my mind, but the story-arc's sketchy, the dialogue's stilted, and the 'pacing' non-existent!
      But as you say, draft 0, so LOTS to improve on!

    2. Excellent! Can't wait to read it first-hand!


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