If you missed Part 4, please click here:


Part 5

How I write a novel

I should first admit to not knowing how to write a novel. The best I can do is to tell you how I am attempting to write a novel. Perhaps there will then be some of you who read this who will point out my mistakes, why I am doing it all wrong and how to do it properly? I welcome that!

You may remember that I wrote a piece for one of my course assignments that got a half way decent mark and then, after I had modified it and hacked it around a bit to meet the competition rules, it went on to become a prize winning piece.

This meant that it made sense to me to carry on in the same vein as I had originally intended. The big question was how. I had by this time, written many short stories but I realised that a novel was somehow different. It requires persistence of course but it also means that you have more space and freedom to explore issues that can stretch out beyond the bounds of a short story.  Freedom to develop characters to their full potential.

I started by writing disconnected pieces. I effectively tried to write the life story of each character. I would then write the skeleton of the plot and then take the plot and weave in the characters as necessary. This may be a crazy way to write but I felt and feel it makes sense as the characters would then react in their own way to the plot requirements.

The other way to write a novel is to start at the beginning and carry on writing until the end. This seems more logical but, when I tried this, I found myself encountering different side issues and twists and turns that I had no predicted – the characters were taking over. This might be a good thing, it is their lives after all, but I wanted to try to keep to the original plot and have the characters react in their own way. People will classify a novel as plot driven or character driven. I was greedy, I wanted it to be both.

So there we have the priorities, 1 – Characters. 2 – Plot. 3 – Timeline, when the characters react to the plot. 4 – Setting, where the characters do their interacting. This may or may not make sense but I am giving it a go. I now have a folder with essays on each character. The plot skeleton is worked out. The timeline is sketched out and I am now busy adding the details from the character essays. The settings are fairly well worked out. The one that has had the most work and has needed the least research is Brighton, the eponymous town that gives the book part of its title. This is because I was born and brought up in that area of Sussex so I am writing ‘what you know’ as the advice books have it.

I spent my childhood cycling around the lanes in the country just to the North of the South Downs. I still have a great affection for that part of the country. It is close to several big towns but has a very ‘walled garden’ sort of feel – the land that time forgot. Have you noticed that when you are say, 50 yards away from a motorway you may be separated by feeling, only connected to it by the constant roar of the traffic. Somehow separated, in a different world from those people rushing to end of their lives, talking on the hands free about their next ‘urgent’ appointment.

This area also has an architecture to me. A geological architecture of the huge chalk dome that used to cover the now-naked underlying rocks of the Gault and Horsham stone, arching from the South to the North Downs – now eroded and washed away by the forces of time. Springs predictably gushing from the chalk lying on the impermeable clay. The line of villages with their little old pubs along that same spring line.

Now the characters. There would obviously be the two boys of the title but what are their names, how are they connected, how are they different and how can I show this? Their names should fit the time into which they were born. This was at the end of WWII so no Shayne, Noah or Mohammed.  I won’t tell you the names I chose but suffice to say that, if you Google, ‘popular boys names in the UK in 1945’ you may find them near the top of the list.

The boys would grow up in that area in an area nearly untouched by the horrors of the recent war – two innocents abroad who have to grow up quickly as they interact with the plot, other characters and events.

There has to be an ‘other’ a stranger, the outsider, the foreigner who represents the forces of evil. He will have a difficult name, one redolent of difference. There will also be the dog of course – the equivalent of Shakespeare’s Crab.

There will also be a younger innocent who sets off on a long quest to find the truth about his past and perhaps exact revenge for a perceived wrong.

Along the way, through the book, these lead characters will interact with other players on the stage of life.

A lot to do so I had better get on with it.

Part 6 – How the cover was designed will follow shortly


© Richard Kefford                                                                                                        Eorðdraca


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One thought on “The growth of a novel

  1. This is really interesting – I do start sort of at the beginning and then just let it go – and yes, the characters do take over…which sometimes makes it difficult to pull it all together, and needs a lot of editing… Maybe I should set myself a task (one day) to write a planned book!! I think what you are doing here could develop into an actual book all on its own!


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