I still can't get going on my novel, but with the lighter days I am feeling more like doing something, so I thought I'd look through my writing notebooks and then maybe put them in the attic and free up some shelf space.
The first book I picked up is dated 1996/7. It is an early book, probably the first and I've little idea how to go about studying anything. At that time I would have been learning how to type and doing my Open College A-units, (which are around GCSE level.) I've written out some pages from Hamlet and Barbara Cartland, then I seem to have gone through some Gothic books by Phyllis A Whitney and Victoria Holt, writing out a precis of what happens in each chapter. Then I turned to Mills & Boon and did the same with a Vikki Lewis Thompson novel and one by Rosalie Ash. There's some notes on a sex scene from a 1993 novel - 'takes place on a yacht' I've noted. I've written down all the descriptive words - and noticed how the female character's feelings move from fear, to instinct taking over to desire. He's a bit of a bully boy - there's pages of him 'pinning her down with one hard leg' and 'blocking speech' lots of words like ' catch, alarming, possessive, rough, push, twist' and so on. It would be interesting to look at a newer book and see how it's changed - if it has! I've given up trying to write for Mills & Boon though. I do like a romance - I like books where the female gets what she wants, but their particular world is not one I inhabit. At this time, I was still sending off attempts to Mills and Boon, but the rejections came pinging back. Towards the end of this study book (an A4 lined hardback notebook) I seem to have started thinking: 'Why don't I understand what's going on in these little romances? Why can't I write one?' And started looking at books about writing.
There's a page of notes from a book or an article by Mary Cadogan - possibly called 'Women and Children First'. I didn't have the habit of making a note of source material in 1996! Cadogan states that a bestseller may have an original storyline and a flair for language but it must agree with popular sentiment. It's important that the book appear to give reasoned consideration to serious issues, she says, but it will actually shirk logical developments and outcomes in favour of endorsing social conventions. Although the novel must appear to demand intelligent participation from the reader, it must work within popular sentiment. I've also noted that she finds a fundamental conflict between authenticity and readability in historical fiction. Most authors treat the past as if it were the present, sacrificing remoteness for readability. Understandable enough. It's hard work reading old fiction - but when my A-level class finished, we all said we had got the most out of the Chaucer tale we studied - because it took you to such a far-away world.