I am delighted to be hosting Marcus Sedgwick for a guest post as part of his SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE blog tour! You can find the other stops on the tour listed here.
SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE
by Marcus SedgwickGoodreads:
Release Date: April 22, 2014
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Laureth Peak's father has taught her to look for recurring events, patterns, and numbers--a skill at which she's remarkably talented. Her secret: She is blind. But when her father goes missing, Laureth and her 7-year-old brother Benjamin are thrust into a mystery that takes them to New York City where surviving will take all her skill at spotting the amazing, shocking, and sometimes dangerous connections in a world full of darkness. She Is Not Invisible is an intricate puzzle of a novel that sheds a light on the delicate ties that bind people to each other.
Superb British art-rockers Radiohead are on record as saying that what you throw away is as important as important as what you produce. I recall a school librarian, to whom I was expressing some concerns over whatever I was writing at the time, telling me that I ‘couldn’t write a bad book if I tried’. But that’s maybe because they hadn’t considered what I throw away: the stories that end up bound as books with a nice shiny cover are of course the ones that make it through an extensive selection process, first by me, then by my publishers.
I’ve written around 15 novels. It’s taken me around 15 years. And three times at least in those 15 years I have started to write a book, got around 10,000 words in, and then decided to abandon the project. Once I wrote a whole book, 80,000 words, and threw it away. You probably don’t need to be a writer to understand how painful that is. It’s not just the time, or what else you could have been writing instead; it’s the waste of an idea that hurts.
I like, if at all possible therefore, to avoid this wastage. I like to be as sure as I can that the seed of an idea I have decided to work on is going to not only grow, but bear leaves and healthy fruit besides.
That’s where these things come in: my notebooks.
Notebooks have an obvious function and a less obvious function.
The obvious function is that of recording thoughts so you don’t forget them. The less obvious function is that they serve as the first filter through which an idea must pass. I don’t just have an idea and then sit down to write it the next day. I have an idea, I put it in my notebook, and then I wait for months, if not years, while I develop the idea into a potential book. Many, many, many ideas therefore never leave the pages of the notebook. They just don’t happen. I deem that they are rubbish. Whatever.
But there’s still the danger that an idea can seem good enough to leave the notebook, and yet it still doesn’t work out – and that is the greater danger, because then we’re in the territory of spending years on something that proves to be futile.
That seemed to be the case with She Is Not Invisible. I first had the thought that I would like to write a book about coincidence around 8 or 9 years ago. Great idea, I thought. Superb. But years went by and I couldn’t crack how to do it. Twice, I planned out large sections of the plot, and even started some writing, but I could see that I didn’t know what I was doing. I had the very strong feeling that I had chosen a ‘bad idea’ to write about. Yet, finally, I made something of it, and the breakthrough came around two years ago when I came to a startling realization; one which goes like this: it’s very hard to write about coincidence. That might not seem like much, but the point is that coincidences are hard to write about for a couple of reasons. First, a relatively small coincidence can seem very cool when it happens to you, but try telling someone about it. The most common reaction is feigned politeness, or perhaps you might be treated to some outright boredom. So in order to make the coincidences in your novel more interesting, you exaggerate them. What’s the problem with that? Well, very unlikely happenings are just what bad writers use to get themselves around holes in their plot.
In the end therefore, I decided not to write a book about coincidence, but to write a book about a writer writing a book about coincidence. They say you should write what you know (and though I don’t agree with that) - in this case I had plenty of experience of being a writer trying (and failing) to write about the subject of synchronicity.
After that, things got easier – I did what I usually do to develop an idea which involves lots of reading, lots of thinking, lots of travelling places that might make good settings, and lots of staring into space through the window and calling it work. I read countless books about coincidence, most notably Carl Jung’s Synchronicity, and along the way, managed to generate a few little happen coincidences of my own.
So the book is done and sits on the bookshelves now, but generally speaking, no one sees what was thrown away in order to get there, and that’s the way it should be.
What did you thinking of Marcus's guest post? And come back tomorrow to read my review of SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE! (Spoiler alert: I loved it.)
Thank you to Marcus for joining us today with a fantastic post, and to Ksenia from Macmillan for letting me join the tour!