Today we’re delighted to welcome Wendy Clarke as our guest. Wendy is a well-known writer of stories for women’s magazines such as People’s Friend and Take a Break, and has recently celebrated her ‘centenary’ with the publication of her 100th story! Given Wendy’s extraordinary success in the magazine market, I wondered how this all came about, and why she’s now decided to write a novel, so I invited her here to tell us her own story.
Over to you, Wendy…
I was sitting in the classroom with a group of Year 6 children around me, showing them how to plan out a story. I had drawn a story arc on the board with the usual labels: conflict, build up, climax, consequences and the resolution. The genre of the story the class was to write was ‘adventure’ and the theme was losing something. After much discussion we came up with the idea of a child who had wandered away from their parents on a beach.
As we discussed the story, I found myself getting carried away with the ideas… the possibilities… the excitement of creation. My creative writing instincts, which had lain dormant for thirty years, began to kick in. I didn’t know about the children, but I wanted to write the story. Yes me.
When I told the children this, they were surprised. Why don’t you then? one boy asked. The question brought me back to reality. I was the teacher, after all. I was there to guide the children, not to write the story myself. I looked up and saw the poor, sad story arc I’d mapped on the board. It looked empty, incomplete. It didn’t excite me in the way that the idea of writing the story had. This was, after all, supposed to be a lesson in planning.
Oh well. Pointing to the board, I asked the children whether they could think of an example of conflict which I could add to the arc. Even as I was speaking, though, I was wondering whether one day I would get the chance to write that story.
Fast-forward a year and, instead of standing in front of a whiteboard, I was walking along the riverbank with my dog. The time was my own, the days stretched out ahead of me and I felt aimless. A week earlier, the small private school where I worked had closed down – I had been made redundant. What did I want to do? What direction did I want to go in? My brother had told me about an online creative writing course he had taken. Why didn’t I do that, he suggested. It would keep me occupied while I thought about the next stage of my life.
So that’s what I did. I completed the course and then another. It became the most important part of my week. At last, instead of teaching others how to write, I was actually doing it. Not only that, but there was not a story arc in sight! The writing topics were set each week and I just wrote and wrote and wrote… and when I was finished I stopped!
When the course ended, I felt bereft. Just like that, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to carry on writing short stories. So I did. I sent a few off to magazines and a couple of months later had my first acceptance… then another. The excitement was indescribable! It spurred me on to write more and now, three years on, I have over a hundred sales under my belt. I brought out my first collection of stories, Room in Your Heart last year and my second, The Last Rose, has just been published.
You might think the story ends there but it doesn’t. I started to find that some of the stories I was writing were becoming more compelling. Characters were calling to me; plots were becoming too involved to fit into three thousand words or less. Maybe I could try a serial. The only problem was, I was required to write a synopsis before my idea would be accepted. To write a synopsis would mean planning and I couldn’t stop a vision of the story arc I’d drawn on my classroom whiteboard coming into my head. What was I to do? For a long time I stared at my page and, in the end, managed to put together a sketchy plan. I think the magazine editors must have taken pity on me as the serial idea was accepted! Of course, once I started writing it, the characters took over and my plan went by the wayside. Maybe not the conventional way of going about things but it worked for me and I have since written another in the same way.
So are we now at the end of the writing tale? Not quite. There was one story I’d had published in one of the magazines which kept coming into my mind. I knew there was more to the plot than I had written, new avenues to explore, mysteries to solve, new romances to blossom. I thought to myself… could I write a novel? Was it possible? There was only one way to find out but I knew I’d need help.
In January, after much encouragement from people I met at the RNA winter party in London, I joined their New Writers’ Scheme. My novel is underway and I’m hoping to have something worth submitting to my reader for a critique in July. So am I planning? Do I have a detailed story arc? Have I plotted the intricate twist and turns of my characters’ journeys? I leave that for you to decide!
Thanks for being our guest, Wendy. Enjoy your ‘journey’ into novel-writing, and best of luck with your latest anthology.
You can follow Wendy on her blog, here: http://wendyswritingnow.blogspot.co.uk/ and check out her Amazon page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wendy-Clarke/e/B00OW7Z7UU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1426073694&sr=1-2-ent
PS If you would like to ask Wendy a question or leave a comment, please click on ‘Comments’ at the end of the list below this post.