Christmas is over and most people have their trees down, their houses neatly Hoovered and a new sense of purpose. I have the latter, but my tree smells so wonderful and looks so lovely I have given it a reprieve for a few days. I enjoy relaxing as I sit by it, even if I am busy on the computer, or doing that other thing which is so important for writers – enjoying a good book.
My reading has changed considerably since I have begun writing novels. When I wrote short stories, poems and therapy textbooks, I used to devour novels. Almost speed reading them, becoming involved with the story, and ending with a great sense of satisfaction if I had worked out who was the murderer, or the story had resolved in the way I wanted or expected.
Now I still read fast, but sentences or paragraphs catch, even ensnare, me. I re-read and enjoy, letting the words walk around my mind in the same way as I relish the taste of chocolate in my mouth. But I hardly ever feel satisfied by the time I finish the book – I am left with a great yearning to be able to write in the style of whoever I have just read – in the latest case, Rachel Joyce.
So does that mean I rush to my work-in-progress and reshape everything in the most lovely language with exquisite turns of phrase? Not possible, because for some strange reason, I nearly always write in the first person, trying to inhabit the character or - in the case of two of my novels – both characters who write in the first person. I don’t know why – perhaps it is my psychology training plus years of trying to get alongside people to find out what they are truly thinking. Or maybe I am a closet actress? Whatever the reason, it is hard to use the most beautiful language through the mouth of an average computer-crazy sixteen year old boy, or a teenage girl who has been tossed backwards and forwards through the care system with little headspace amongst her turbulent emotions to learn to refine the way she speaks.
Ah, but wait a minute, in one of my novels, Trying to Fly, my protagonist is an ex-librarian. I thought the script was ready to go, but maybe I will read it just one more time, to check she speaks enough entrancing passages to entrap a rushing reader – or even a busy publisher!
Yes, I shall enjoy using my New-Year sense of purpose, sitting in the soft twinkly lights of last year’s Christmas tree, encouraging my character to view the world in a most magical way.
Annie Try is now writing novels, having previously published therapy books and psychology papers as Angela Hobday. She lives in Norfolk with her husband and Old English Sheepdog.