Writing my new series, The Reading Group, is one of the most exciting and challenging things I’ve ever done. This is partly because I am a panster, not a plotter. When I start writing a story I have no idea how it will develop. I begin with a character who has a problem, and away we go.
When I began writing these novellas I knew from the outset what kind of stuff was likely to happen. This is because The Reading Group is based on a very simple idea.
Five women in the seaside village of Little Sanderton come together to share their love of reading. Each month they take it in turns to pick a classic novel and each month one of the Reading Group discovers that her life suddenly seems to be running parallel to that month’s novel.
In December the Reading Group choose A Christmas Carol by Dickens. Grace, who’s about to be made homeless is dreading Christmas.
In January they choose Emma by Jane Austen. Anne Marie fancies herself to be a matchmaker, but she’s – erm – not exactly an expert Cupid!
In February they choose Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Laurence. Uh oh, Kate’s marriage is on the rocks and she has a hunky builder refurbishing her kitchen. Hold on to your hats, ladies!
Are you beginning to get the picture? Writing to this structure gave me a major advantage:
- I knew roughly what the plot of each novella would be. (This was a completely new way of writing for me.)
And two major disadvantages:
- I had to fit the plot of a full length novel into 30,000 words.
- I had to fit it into the time span of a month!
Phew! Yet ironically it was these very restraints that made the writing such fun. I didn’t want to copy the plot of the novels verbatim – where’s the fun in that! So I took what were, for me, the main elements of these beautiful classic stories and then I played around with them. I wanted to write my own contemporary versions with my own contemporary twists. I hope you like the results.
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