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The Novice Novelist – Twenty7 Open Submissions

Looking for inspiration for our 27 Days of Open Submissions, which we’re running in association with Cornerstones? Author Colette Dartford describes what she learned about writing in the course of producing her wonderful debut novel, Learning to Speak American.

Like all authors with Twenty7 Books, I am debut novelist. Learning To Speak American will be published as an e-book on November 5th and as a paperback next July.

And if you are reading this as part of the ‘27 days of open submissions,’ you probably harbour aspirations of being a published author too. You daydream about that elusive book deal and as someone who has been in that position, I’m happy to report that it’s both possible and wonderful.

What inspired me to write my first novel was a trip to California’s idyllic Napa Valley. My husband and I were so smitten that we bought a run-down wooden house and spent the next two years travelling back and forth from Somerset to oversee its renovation.

My protagonists in Learning To Speak American do this too, desperate to move on from a heartbreaking tragedy. It’s often said that first novels are autobiographical and I certainly drew upon my experience of falling in love with a place and its people, but that’s where reality ended and fiction began.

The Courtesan - pictureI produced a first draft without worrying about the tenets of creative writing, but when it was selected as a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, realized that I could write, but I needed to learn how to do it better.

My background in academia taught me that anything could be learned if you applied yourself. I read books such as Novel Writing—16 Steps To Success, and The Weekend Novelist, as well as texts about dialogue, plot and structure, conflict, action and suspense.

Did they help? Yes and no. Certain technical aspects of writing can and should be learned (e.g. the conventions of Point of View), but don’t get bogged down by the opinions of others, related in the form of ‘rules’. For me, the imposition of rules stifled the creative process. It made it difficult to let go of the censorious voice in my head and allow words to flow freely onto the page.

At a writers conference I attended, an author described making highly detailed character maps – how her characters looked and spoke, what type of school they attended, their relationships with friends and family – before she wrote a word of her novels. I remember feeling wholly inadequate because until I get stuck into a story, I don’t really know my characters all that well. They develop as I put them into various situations and I figure out how they would act, what they would say. The further I get into a story, the better I know them. By the end of a novel, I know them better than I know myself.

The point here isn’t that one way is right and the other is wrong, but rather that what works for one writer won’t work for another. The stories we tell are as individual as we are, and that’s exactly how it should be.

*     *     *

Having suffered in silence since the tragic death of their young daughter, Lola and Duncan Drummond’s last chance to rediscover their love for one another lies in an anniversary holiday to the gorgeous Napa Valley.

Unable to talk about what happened, Duncan reaches out to his wife the only way he knows how – he buys her a derelict house, the restoration of which might just restore their relationship.

As Lola works on the house she begins to realise the liberating power of letting go. But just as she begins to open up, Duncan’s life begins to fall apart.

Colette Dartford’s debut novel, Learning to Speak American, explores whether a parent can ever truly move on from the death of a child. And, after all the heartbreak, whether Lola and Duncan can learn to love again.

Watch Full Movie Arrival (2016)


Quality : HD
Title : Arrival (2016)
Director : Denis Villeneuve.
Release : 2016-11-10
Language : 普通话, English, Pусский
Runtime : 116 min.
Genre : Drama, Science Fiction.

Synopsis :
‘Taking place after alien crafts land around the world, an expert linguist is recruited by the military to determine whether they come in peace or are a threat.

Watch Full Movie Arrival (2016)

Posted 25 Sep 2015
By Shane Hegarty