Feeling an urge to write

Posted on July 28, 2008 (Subscribe to Blog)

I don't believe in fate but it seems I've had several "signs" lately saying I should brush the dust off my unfinished novel, Island of Fog, and start writing again. The first sign came from the Enid Blyton Yahoo Group – recently a member finished his chapter (actually two chapters) for the latest Round Robin, The Jungle of Adventure, and then it was my turn. For those who don't know, a Round Robin is where a group of people write a short story or novel, with each participant contributing a piece. I completed my segment on Saturday – 3804 words, which I split into two chapters. Took me about four hours. So now the Round Robin has nine completed chapters, and it's over to the next writer to continue from where I left off.

This was the first time I'd written any fiction for... well, I forget how long, but it's been a while! It was fun, and it seems like I was never away. The only problem (as always) is my typing. I can type fairly fast, but my fingers are sort of all over the place and I make a lot of errors and have to back up and correct as I go. I must learn how to touch type one day!

Anyway, I digress. The second sign came with the realization that my wife is now working almost full time and earning good money, and my daughter is starting Pre-K school on August 1st – meaning I can work less and have more time to myself. I remember back in November 2005 when I finally decided that work and toddler-duties wasn't giving me any decent writing time, and I put my novel away and told myself I'd pick it up again when Lily started school and Nessa was working. Well, now that time has come.

The third sign was when, out of the blue, a friend of mine in England suddenly appeared back on the scene with his own writing. We hadn't spoken for a while, and especially hadn't talked about writing, but here he was with a new piece, purely by coincidence.

The fourth sign came a few days ago when I received an email from Trevor Bolton, author of the Blyton serials that are currently online at the Enid Blyton Society. Trevor actually corresponded with Enid over several years, although, because their correspondence was so frequent, he never thought to save any of the letters. A shame! I'll bet he's kicking himself now. Anyway, much, much later, for his own amusement, he started writing one sequel for each of the popular mystery and adventure series. The Society website now has online full-length novels such as The Canyons of Adventure, The Mystery of McGregor's Farm, Five Return to Kirrin Island, The Raynam Marsh Mystery, and – the current serial – The Adventurous Four to the Rescue! All these novels are true to the original series in terms of length and style.

If these four signs aren't blatant enough, then add these to the mix: I have a website client who is not only a published author of ten non-fiction books, but also the co-founder of a small publishing company and has some kind of control over a bookstore in Chattanooga. Anyway, we were emailing back and forth the other day, as he just had another book published and needed a front cover picture added to his website. Well, as I sat here typing part of this post, this same guy emailed me to say he wants to talk about another website – a big one involving books and publishing and all that good stuff.

And, I have another non-paying client who has a new and used bookstore. I created her site for free, with a loose agreement that I can pop into her store anytime and pluck secondhand books off her shelves and walk out with them. We tally things up loosely, but as it stands today I need to pay her a visit and stock up on books! Anyway, she contacted me recently too and asked to make some website changes. Nothing too strange about that except that it's been about six months since we last spoke.

It's like everything in my life these days has something to do with writing or books.

So, with these "signs" leaping out at me left, right and center, I now plan to pick up my unfinished novel, Island of Fog, and continue where I left off. I started it back in 2002, and it's seen many incarnations in that time, but I'm happy with the current revision. Now I just need to stop messing with what I've written and write the final chapters. I've always known roughly what happens in those final chapters, but it was just a couple of days ago that I had an idea I'd never thought of before. Mm, yes, I think it'll work!

I won't bore you with the details, and I'll add that I don't really expect my novel to see the light of day. Getting published is hard, so I've heard. But if you can't dream and hope, then what's the point in doing anything?

Enid Blyton fans will know that she had her own special way of writing stories. Trevor Bolton summed this up pretty well in his email to me the other day:

"...This is where I write differently from Enid who said/wrote on more than one occasion that she saw events happening on a sort of screen in front of her. Despite the fact I do actually have a screen in front of me, I have to be participating in the adventure although letting the children control it. I made up my mind to try Enid's method when I sat down to write THE RAYNAM MARSH MYSTERY. I intended starting with the family arriving at their holiday destination so I closed my eyes, fingers at the ready. Yes, the car appeared on the right... moved slowly across my mind's "screen"... and promptly disappeared off the left hand side without my having written a single word! I tried a couple more times but the same thing happened. Then I realised there were no people in the car so, next time, I had faces at the windows – but to no avail! By now, Enid would have been on the second chapter or third chapter. Back to my own method. As soon as I was in the car, Snubby was immediately unintentionally annoying an exasperated Uncle Richard, Loony was barking, the other children were moaning and the chapter unfolded."

I have to say Enid's method of writing doesn't work for me either. It's true that I let the action and dialogue unfold as I write it, but I usually have a sense of how the scene needs to end. I certainly don't see the story "unfold" like a movie on a screen, no sirree. My stuff comes out fairly easily, but usually I have to go back and edit a lot of it, and often, several chapters later, I feel a need to go back and alter things fairly drastically so a character or plot idea goes off in a different direction. I'm kind of messy in my planning and plotting and it seems to take me a lot of work to get all my ducks in a row. The end result is okay though, I think, and when I opened Island of Fog yesterday and browsed through the first couple of chapters, I thought, "Mm, yes, that'll do..." (which is a modest way of saying that I think it rocks!).

Heck, if a writer doesn't feel a surge of pride at what he's written, then why bother continuing? Whether anyone else thinks it's good is another matter entirely!

Comment by JULIE @ OWLSDENE on Tuesday, July 29, 2008...

Look forward to reading this latest novel then Keith. Will you be putting it on your site along with the others I've read? (Also hopefully doing your best to find a publisher) When my daughter was young I used to sit and write childrens stories, my way of doing something different other than being a mother. All my scripts are up in the loft somewhere. I tried a few publishers over the years, but gave up after a few rejection letters. I used to have a rough idea of a story, but had no idea of how it would proceed until I started to write, then the writing and the children in the story would take over and it would normally end, completely different than my original plan.

Anyway good luck with your novel Keith, let's hope we will soon be seeing it in book form.

Comment by NIGEL ROWE on Tuesday, July 29, 2008...

Good luck, Keith — it is said we all have at least one book inside of us, but I guess that might be an average! Enid's 700+ leaves a few of us with none! Looking forward to reading it.

Comment by LIZ FILLEUL on Tuesday, July 29, 2008...

Good luck, Keith. The important thing, I've found, is to keep going and not keep rewriting what you've already written. That was a problem for me for years, hence I never finished anything. Now I keep going till the end, even if I know that much of what's already written is garbage, and contradictory, etc. Once I've finished, I put it away for a few days, then read it all in one hit, making notes about what needs fixing. That way you have a whole manuscript to work with and polish.

The worst problem for me is having a lot of ideas for different stories in my head all at once and having to choose which one I'm going to run with till the end!

Comment by ANITA on Wednesday, July 30, 2008...

Best of luck, Keith! I remember reading the opening of "Island of Fog" online a few years ago and thinking it sounded very promising.

Comment by HARI MENON on Thursday, July 31, 2008...

Cacoethes blogendi, eh? Keep it up. By the way, why don't I get alerts any more when you update your blog? The Island of Fog sounds very intriguing... may we expect more news soon?

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Thursday, July 31, 2008...

I always enjoy reading about other writers' attempts at getting published, as it reminds me that we're all in the same boat — until one gets published of course, and then one becomes aloof and superior if one is not careful! I hope I get published one day, but by golly, shoot me if I start sounding like a writer I once knew of, who would lecture "lesser writers" like he was an expert just because he'd had one book published.

As it stands, I'm one of those who has several unfinished pieces, a couple of "finished" ones, and just a couple of rejections. I like to tell myself I was "testing the water" with those rejections. Yes. And next time I send out a manuscript, I'll be "just checking, nothing serious."

Julie, there's no way my novel will appear online anywhere, except perhaps the first few chapters. Publishers frown upon work that has been published anywhere, even on a personal website. And Liz, your advice is what I keep trying to tell myself!!

Nigel, it's well known that "we all have a novel in us"... but from what I've read, publishers absolutely HATE that saying! And Anita, I'm not sure if the opening you read was the old one or the current version. The current version is much better, I think.

Hari, I'm not so much compelled to write my blog, just compelled to write! In fact sometimes I have trouble thinking of what to blog about, so I'm not sure that Cacoethes blogendi is accurate for me! As for blog updates, I stopped sending those a while back; now the emailed notifications are just for the website. I always felt it was a little pushy emailing to say "I've updated my blog, go look at what I have to say." Bleugh. But if you're subscribed through a reader you should be getting updates that way — I use Google Reader and I know it works just fine there. As for more news about Island of Fog... I'll maybe post a synopsis or something if it's of interest to anyone.

Comment by FIONA B on Friday, August 1, 2008...

I've just thoroughly depressed myself by looking at the novel I started writing last year. I thought I'd written loads — turned out to be just over 5,000 words. I have good (if vague) ideas about what will happen later in the book, I just don't know how to get there. It's a Nancy Drew book by the way. Seeing as various people wrote the books anyway I thought I'd give it a go. I think I've been getting too bogged down in trying to emulate their writing style and language, and not thinking enough on actual content. Definitely a book that will never, ever, ever, ever be published.

Comment by LIZ FILLEUL on Friday, August 1, 2008...

What sort of book is Island of Fog, Keith — a children's book, for adults; sci-fi, an old-fashioned adventure complete with smugglers? It's a nice title anyway! :-)

Comment by JULIAN PARRY on Tuesday, August 5, 2008...

Keith, Blyton's method of writing doesn't work for me either! I don't have a screen in front of me when I write, and I plan my stories well before I write them. If the plot goes off in a different direction than I hoped (which happens many times) I let it. Then, after the work is finished, I edit it thoroughly, although I have to say editiong is hard. However rubbish may the original words be...... but still they're my own.

Good luck on Island of Fog. As I'm also a writer trying to get published, that's natural. But be warned: I'm also writing a novel now and may publish it (although not traditionally) and hopefully in the not-too-distant future I may be a published author!

In reference to Liz's question, I assume it is a mix of smugglers + sci-fi. I may be wrong though.

Julian Parry

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Wednesday, August 6, 2008...

Fiona, your book will certainly never be published if you don't finish it! Interesting, though, how you know what happens "later" but don't know how to "get there." I don't think I've had that problem, although I know of others who have. My problem is getting bogged down in editing before I finish — either that or writing half and then wondering where the heck I'm going with it. Often I have no clue what the end is until I'm about halfway through!

In answer to Hari, Liz and Julian, Island of Fog is actually more in the realms of "contemporary fantasy" in that it involves a real-world environment (a foggy island where eight families live) and some heavy fantasy elements. There's nothing at all natural about the eight children, who are the same age and have lived on the island all their lives; their parents don't like to talk about the "old life" or what's "out there." The children have never seen a blue sky, have never been off the island, have never been sick, and are led to believe that there's a sea serpent swimming about offshore. More in another post. :-)

Good luck with your novel, Julian!

Comment by JULIAN PARRY on Wednesday, August 6, 2008...

Thanks, Keith! And yes, Fiona's problem is quite strange, for I, for one, hasn't experienced it ever in my writing career. My problems of writing is the planning. When I started my writing, I used to plan a lot. But all went useless because the plot took off in a different direction! To me, there are some times when I really don't know how the plot is going to proceed. And worst of all, even the creativity doesn't help me!

The plot synopsis of Island of Fog does sound quite intriguing, and if it's published, I'll be one of the first to buy it! My guess was way of the mark though, I think. Fantasy is not exactly my favourite genre (I prefer realism) but still I will read that book. And I'm dying for a plot summary of it, just a short paragraph, not the long ones you can find in Wikipedia. If you give it, then its fine.

Good luck again, and hope you complete it soon so we'll get the summary!

Julian Parry

Comment by LIZ FILLEUL on Wednesday, August 6, 2008...

Keith, that plot sounds fantastic. I wouldn't say much more about it online, if I were you — you never know what bad guys are lurking...

Have you tried getting a publisher based on what you've done so far? It really sounds like it shouldn't have any trouble attracting a publisher plotwise...

Comment by JOHN TREST on Monday, August 11, 2008...

Keith, if your novel is really good, then you COULD publish it! No, not the traditional way, but Print-On-Demand by way of wordclay or lulu. Self-publishing! It's very easy, and by way of wordclay, it's even FREE! How's that, eh?

Comment by MIMSY KIRANA on Thursday, August 28, 2008...


From this website, I found that your writing is outstandingly matured and excellent. Not to praise you, but it is the actual fact. My father re-surfed the websites I surfed before — you know, the regular parental check — and found this website. He read your writing and said, "This is an adult writing, so matured and outstanding and it is not even difficult to understand. Who is behind this?" Then, I started to tell a summarized story about you and your website and how all of us here shared the fondness towards the same author.

Your writing would build an outstanding book. You should just keep up your good work and made up your mind of you yielding a book. Don't forget to publish your book in Malaysia so that I would have the chance to read your book one day.

Hopes and cheers,
Mimsy Kirana

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