An email from my editor today, in response to a needy, insecure one from me: “Once you find the truth of this book – what it is you want to risk saying – it will come, but it’s a horrible process to get there. So, consider emulating someone you think does it well until you find your feet…”
This is good advice. For my first novel, I began by emulating Armistead Maupin (author of the ‘Tales of the City’ books), with lots of snappy dialogue to describe action, and quick brushstrokes to describe place and atmosphere. But the final book didn’t end up reading like Armistead Maupin (although he remained a large influence on both my first books).
I know exactly the moment I found my own voice for it, in a scene when one of my character’s fathers was having a stroke. It was a slightly comedic scene (if you can believe it), but the emotional core of it rang absolutely true to me.
I realised that the book, although ostensibly about a group of friends who form a film club, was about parents, and at the heart of it were my feelings about my own parents. This allowed me to clarify who I was in the context of writing, and when I went back to reshape the second and third drafts, I was much more confident in and grounded in that voice.
So, the first draft of this book, as in any other book, is about finding the truth. It’s also about writing forward and trusting that the truth will come.