Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Accidental Novel

Suddenly, out of nowhere, I am rather unexpectedly working on a new novel.

It is not, I must confess, a particularly serious project. It’s a bit of fun, really, which is possibly dangerous if you go with the idea that you should always write from the heart, and so forth. But on the other hand there seems to be an audience – albeit a very small one – which actually wants to read it, and it’s raising some money for charity, so it’s probably having a more positive impact than any of my other works of fiction.

It all started last Sunday morning, during an edition of Treasure Quest, a radio programme I produce for BBC Radio Norfolk. The radio car team were heading for Scarrowbeck Road in North Norfolk, and the observation was made that “Scarrowbeck” sounds as if it should be some sort of historical romance. Presenters David Clayton and Sophie Little started joking about what characters might be in it, and the listeners joined in, on the show’s Facebook page as well as on the show itself.

That evening, purely for a bit of fun, I wrote the first chapter of Scarrowbeck and posted it on the Treasure Quest Facebook page. Just a two-and-a-half thousand word pastiche of a cheap and cheerful Victorian-set costume drama.

I was, admittedly, quite pleased with it – I thought I’d done a decent job of capturing something of the genre. It’s always easy to write the beginning of something, of course, and trying to write in a broad-strokes parody of a certain style is also easier than casting about for your own voice, whatever that might be.

But nevertheless, it went quite well, so I thought, perhaps, I could have a go at carrying it on. I also decided to try and make some money for charity out of it, by setting up a JustGiving page where people could donate £5 per chapter, with the aim of ending up with 30 chapters - £150 for Children in Need. At time of writing half the money has already been raised, so it looks as if I am well and truly committed to it now!

On the one hand, you might think “why are you wasting your time messing around with this nonsense?” But at least I am writing something. Until I started writing Scarrowbeck, I hadn’t written any new fiction all year. Since January, I have been buried deep into the research for my prospective new Doctor Who Magazine submission, which is finally coming towards its conclusion. It’s been a fascinating and enjoyable experience, but has left me with little time for anything else. So it’s nice to be writing something, anything fictional again, the fact I have monetised it for charity means I have the added discipline of having to get it done.

Plus, unlike pretty much any other fiction I have ever written, there is actually an audience for this. It may be only a dozen or so people, and most of them will quickly get bored it I suspect, but even so… They’re there. They exist.

And it only takes me about an hour or so to write each chapter, based on the two I’ve done so far. That’s not too much of a commitment. I’m aiming to do two a week, so should have it finished sometime in the summer. Plus the idea of writing something in serial format is rather appealing.

It’s better to be writing something than nothing, anyway. So if you do want to follow it, the chapters will be available as they are written on the Treasure Quest Facebook page, here. And if you fancy donating to the cause, you can do that via the JustGiving page, here.

In other news, as mentioned my new DWM piece is going well. I have done far too much research really, as it’s difficult if not impossible to squeeze it all in while making a short enough and readable piece, but you never know what you’re going to need to know to write well about something. I’m also working on another new documentary project for the radio station, so plenty of irons in the fire. Plenty of productivity.

So a little nonsense fiction can’t hurt!