Writing a novel: beware abnormal load

From Ali Bacon

The Last Big Thing
The Last Big Thing

On three separate weekends this year, an ‘abnormal load’ (well three of them, to be precise) passed through the outskirts of Bristol, resulting in road closures and general traffic mayhem. Not only that but a significant numberof people left their homes and walked to the nearest vantage point just so see the Big Thing  for themselves as it rumbled through at a bone-crunching 7 mph.

I suppose in a world where most things are getting ever smaller, something that’s famous for its sheer size is worth a look. When I inadvertently crossed the path of the last of these mega-loads, I jumped out of my car to  record the moment for posterity.

I find the problems of writing a novel are mostly to do with size. Short stories are about eking out a moment to show it in its most shining truth. It would be great to say that a novel will have the same effect, but the scale of the things makes the process quite different. The thing is, a novel is not, compared to a short story, just longer, but much more complex. In fact if you take into account the characters and their plots and subplots, a novel is many stories twisted together to create a satisfying whole. If it works, it’s only at the end that the reader  thinks ‘Yes! That was the real story.   This is true even in a novel that focuses on – and might be told by – just one person throughout. There are still distinctive plot strands in terms of what’s happening here, there, with him, or with her.Bringing this off is a bit like fighting with a many-headed beast or steering a pantechnicon through narrow roads – will it fit, will it crash, will it just come to a halt? Right now I’m happy to take it very slowly, trying to stop and go at the right time, taking pit-stops and doing some road-mending as I go. If I can get it to its destination, that will be the time for spit and polish.

When I actually saw the Big Thing, I admit I was underwhelmed – so is this what all the fuss has been about? If you look at the amount of the WIP I have written so far, you might feel the same. You’ll have to take my word for it – like the Tardis, it’s bigger on the inside.

A Kettle of Fish coverIf anyone is in Clifton tonight, there’s a new event called Novel Nights at The Lansdown pub starting at 7.30 pm. Ali and Jean  will both be there  reading the opening pages of their novels.

Tickets still available at £3 each if you’re quick!

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