This post should have some kind of health warning as there are some ridiculously adorable photos of a puppy in it that could melt your heart. We’re just over a month into the New Year, and I’m a week into owning new puppy! Meet Didi! Here she is on her first day at home.
Didi was found as a stray with her brother and sister and rescued by the RSPCA . She is quite nervous, and only truly happy when curled up in someone’s arms, having a cuddle by the fire. Friends told me what I was letting myself in for; ‘It’ll be like having a baby again!’ they said, rubbing their hands with glee at the sleepless nights I was about to endure. They were right. So Didi needs a strict night-time routine; tucked down in her duvet to some soothing Radio 4, a ticking clock hidden under her pillow to remind her of her mummy’s heart, and a hot water bottle slipped between her blankets is to trick her into thinking she’s still lying next to her brother and sister (I nearly came home with TWO lurcher puppies, but regained my sanity just in time). She also has a teething ring, a snuggly toy, and homoeopathic spray on her pillow to calm her if she gets lonely. Of course she has a night-light too. She needs careful, gentle attention; she cannot be off the lead until she’s bigger in case she strains her developing muscles. She needs time to settle with us, to settle into her own body, to find her feet, to grow.
I’d only just found Didi, peering out from the RSPCA website, looking for her ‘forever home’ when I was writing my first blog for Girlsheartbooks. Between struggling with WordPress and word-wrangling, I’d take sneaky peeks at her, dreaming that she might come and live with us. Around about that time I’d also just finished the final draft of ‘Fenn Halflin and the Seaborn’ (the sequel to ‘Fenn Halflin and the Fearzero’) and I felt in a slightly strange place. Of course I haven’t completely said goodbye to the Fenn series; there’ll be edits to do, the proof read and then the actual publication, but I definitely needed to start the next story, move on to something new. But it’s particularly hard moving on from a book series (in publishing terms two books are called a ‘series’) because you’ve lived and breathed your characters lives for so long; they’ve got under your skin, you worried about them, they’re family. An old friend said publishing a book was like a child leaving home; you wish them well as they disappear over the horizon, you hope you raised (wrote!) them well and you pray they find love. But basically your work is done; they’ve flown the coop they’re on their own. And so are you.
That means I need to start all over again.
I run writing workshops about how to get inspiration for stories but actually I find starting stories quite hard. Sometimes stories come easily sometimes not at all. Sometimes it’s something I read in a newspaper that sparks something off, other times something I’ve seen in a TV programme, or a conversation overheard on a train. Every now and then a story just pops up from my subconscious and I have no clue where it came from. For what I’m about to write now, inspiration came in the form of a non-fiction book I gave my Mum years ago that I rediscovered. I’d completely forgotten about the book, but as soon as I saw it again I knew I had the idea for my next story and I was really excited about the prospect of writing it.
But I don’t know exactly how the story will develop. That’s what the next few weeks will be about, teasing out the plot and characters. Often this means just thinking about the story (during walks with Didi), sometimes doing research to get into the right frame of mind. Also sometimes what I think is a great idea sadly doesn’t work out; I just hope I don’t write 5,000 words before realising I had nothing to say! But every now and then a story arrives on the doorstep of your mind and you have an instinct it will be really good, so long as you treat it right. That’s how this one feels.
When this happens I have to stop myself racing ahead and writing it immediately, that’s when I have to stay on the lead. I desperately want to get it written but I make myself hold back in case I take the story down the wrong path; I think stories can be ruined by trying to tell them too soon, before you’ve let them take root. Instead I mull the ideas over and won’t commit anything to paper until I can’t bear not to. It’s difficult to do, but I think you need to let stories unfold in its own time, like a flower bud opening, and you can’t force them. It’s about patience, seeing how your story wants to grow before you start shaping it. And that’s where Didi comes in again; it’s a bit like settling a puppy; its good to let a story find its feet before calling it to heel.