Posted by: Elen C | August 28, 2011

Frustrations and Faffing About – Paul Manship

Every Summer Holidays I try and start writing a new story. It’s often something I’ve been mulling over for the last few weeks of the Summer Term, perhaps even done some research towards. I’m not big on research.

I usually find my brain takes about a week to re-adjust from full-time teaching and a feeling of being permanently knackered to having lie-ins and the time and luxury to concentrate on writing so, more often than not, I end up accomplishing next to nothing for that initial period. I do a lot of faffing about  – watching films, going for walks, sending e-mails and Facebook messages, semi-randomly exploring the web, reading, but jumping about from book to book.

But then something magical happens and I feel like I’m a writer once again. An idea comes rolling in like a wave. And then, like buses, a few more follow on

After a bit of deliberation, I choose one of the wave-buses and get on it/ride it. Generally, the longer I ride it, the better I seem to get.

I’ve been quite fortunate in one respect this year, because there has been no shortage of ideas. They have come thick and fast. I now know what my next three stories will be  – God willing – and I’m really excited about writing them. Of course there’s no guarantee they’ll be published.

Unfortunately, I’m having a nightmare of a time with what I’m currently attempting to write. I started it a few years ago but abandoned it in frustration. Perhaps I should have left it where it was and listened to those first instincts. But something was nagging at me to return to it.

The story started with a theme rather than a character and a situation. This might have been where I went wrong. It’s not my usual approach.

Anyway, I’m having all sorts of problems. It’s a fantasy but even fantasies have to have some kind of internal logic, which I’m struggling to create. My main protagonist started off as a nice lad, then became a boy with anger management issues, and is currently a girl!

And then, a few weeks ago, I read a children’s book by Sally Nicholls called “Ways to Live Forever”. I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I thought it would be a good idea to Google her to find out more about her. I wish I hadn’t. I discovered that her second novel sounds uncomfortably similar to what I’m writing.

I’ve had strange co-incidences before when writing. A few years ago I wrote an unpublished novel called “Miasma”. Halfway through writing it, I produced what I thought was a pretty terrifying chapter about scarecrows. That Saturday, I watched the latest episode of Dr Who, which was about…terrifying scarecrows. It was weirdly close to what I’d written.

Only last week, something a bit odd happened. I don’t know if you’ve seen or heard anything in the news but recently a man walked into a local (Newport) hairdressers and opened fire with a shotgun. He then went up into some local woods and killed himself.

The story I’m currently writing is partly set in these very woods. I decided to call them Dead Man’s Woods, because there are some woods near my school with this name. In one scene, a teacher and some children are walking through them and one of the children asks about the origin of the name Dead Man’s Woods. The teacher says, “I don’t really know. I’ve lived in this area for twenty years and I don’t know of anybody dying in them.”

Cue local news. Anyway, I’ve basically got two choices:
a) re-abandon the story and possibly come back to it yet again some time in the future   OR

b) persevere (as I am always telling my pupils)

Any advice?


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