A week ago I was stuck on my current work in progress. I knew what the novel was about and I’d worked out a chapter by chapter plan, but actually writing it was like wading through porridge. My dialogue was flat, the links between paragraphs was clunky and the characters had somehow lost their spark. I was in a slough and didn’t know how to get out into the sunlit uplands of a free-flowing narration.
All the usual things had been tried, short sharp bouts, longer writing sessions, going for walks, writing down anything that came into my head. Not even the rubbish this produced could clear the blockage.
Tempted to give up on the whole thing, I couldn’t be bothered to bring my problem to my writing group. I should have known better, because that’s where it all happened.
It was, as I said in the title, something he said, or rather something he wrote. The he in question being Barry Lillie a long time members of Renegade Writers. On that fateful night, he brought an excerpt from his new novel “The Bungalows.”
Set in Stoke-on-Trent it follows the lives of a group of people that live in a close, locally known as The Bungalows. Barry says that the idea came about through his fascination with how people interact with each other. He, like me, finds communities interesting because there is so much we don’t know about the people we are involved with; there are secrets and histories that are never shared and struggles that individuals keep to themselves only realising, once they have shared, that they could have saved themselves so much heartache.
Although the story starts with a simple mystery after the police visit one of the houses, the real core of the book revolves around the way the residents band together which leads them to discover more about themselves and each other.
This is very much my sort of book, but it was the way it was written that made all the difference. The ebb and flow of Barry’s prose, the mix of humour and sadness that he does so well, unblocked my blockage.
Quite how it worked I have no idea. Much as I like his work, I don’t write like Barry. We have very different voices but there was something in his reading that night that I needed to hear.
Maybe it was the ease of his story telling, or the obvious care he has for his characters. Whatever it was I was back at my desk the next day and typing away like crazy. I’m not saying what I wrote was brilliant, it’s only a first draft after all, but at least I was getting the words on the page and for that I have only one person to thank.
Barry Lillie take a bow!
I’m looking forward to hearing more about the people who live in The Bungalows and sometime soon I’ll be bringing the new novel to our weekly meeting to see what Renegade Writers make of it.
In the meantime, much as I’ve enjoyed writing this blog, it’s back to WIP. I’ve Chapter Eight to write.