Claire King


Archive for July, 2011

That Tricky Second Novels

Posted on: July 27th, 2011 by Claire - 38 Comments

I have a confession to make.

As many of you will know, after signing the contract for the publication of my first novel, I was left with a good two years before the launch date (19 months to go and counting!). What to do with all that time? Well write the next novel of course. And if it all goes well get started on the subsequent one. Keep going.

But that’s not exactly what I’m doing. Despite my best efforts, I now find myself writing two new novels at the same time. I am scrivenerally promiscuous.

I started the second one – Novel Two – fully intending to write it, edit it and finish it before moving on. But then another new story began to grow in that special place between heart and head that told me it was a good one. It came with its own momentum, seductively calling me to ‘just jot down a few notes and save them for later’ right at the moment when Novel Two was being wrangly and beligerent. I crept into a corner and wrote down the notes for Novel Three. And then I developed them. And then developed them some more while Novel Two sat in a corner looking at me sullenly. I felt bad for it, I honestly did. But wading through the mud of shaping Novel Two seemed much less fun than splashing in the waves of Novel Three.

But Novel Two has its own pull. I feel passionate about the themes, I see huge potential in the characters. It is only finding the right way to appear them that is tough. They deserve to be written. So once I had captured the immediate energy of Novel Three -several thousand words of it – I returned, abashed, to Novel Two. And Novel Two began to grow. The characters began to take on shape and momentum, as I knew they would. The themes blossomed in tiny little eureka moments sparking new scenes and greater depth. And then I had to stop writing for a week.

Towards the end of that week it was Novel Three that was calling me. At first just a whisper but then louder and louder because there were some ideas for scenes that just had to be captured before I forgot them. It Was Urgent. So I did. Maybe, I thought, Novel Three will be novel two and Novel Two will be novel three? Perhaps that will make most sense. But Novel Three needs quite a lot of research. And of course now Novel Two is calling for my attention again.

So I have decided to accept my fate and let these two novels grow side by side, not so much like twins, but more like a literary three legged race. I have the time for this luxury. But isn’t this all a little…weird?

Bad Nut!

Posted on: July 13th, 2011 by Claire - 4 Comments

Today I was pickling walnuts. A couple of weeks ago I had picked them, and tested them all with a needle to see if the shell had started forming. At that stage quite a few nuts required me to insist quite firmly with the needle before it broke in. Hmm, I thought, maybe they’ll be OK after they’ve been soaked…

So I soaked them all for two weeks, changing the brine regularly. Then I rinsed them assiduously and left them to dry.

Before pickling the walnuts, so as to ensure I am not responsible for breaking the teeth of my friends and family this autumn, I decided to double check again with the needle. A little voice inside was reminding me how my standards on the first cut had not been exactly…exacting.

I tested a few walnuts that were fine. Then I hit a rather hard one, but eventually the needle prevailed.

Hmmm. I like pickled walnuts. I put it in a ‘maybe’ pile.

One by one, I tested the walnuts. There were a few that were simply rock solid. There was no way around the fact that they were dental insurance claims waiting to happen. Bad Nuts! I put them in a ‘No!’ pile and congratulated myself on my ruthlessness.

There were a few where the needle wouldn’t penetrate the stalk end, but a quick poke in the middle and it slipped right in. I put them in a ‘Not sure: To Re-test’ pile.

I then re-tested the ‘Maybe’ and ‘Not sure’ piles, my decisions somewhat swayed, I must admit, by the meagre nature of the ‘Yes’ pile. Some of them I allowed to pass muster. Some, upon consideration, I felt were quite risky, especially considering Granny’s dentures, and I sadly rejected them.

With others I was still uncertain. I dithered, I re-poked. I looked sadly at the paltry yes pile. Surely more nuts would be better even if some of them were slightly crunchy. Surely?


I sighed, I re-tested again. And finally, since it was soon time to get them in the jars before the children needed feeding I finally laid down The Rule.

The Rule: If the needle doesn’t push in at the stalk end it’s a Bad Nut. No exceptions.

I re-needled. I discarded many nuts. And then I looked at my champion nuts and they were good.


And when I felt the happiness of my Good Nut pile it reminded me of my happiness when I had finished my third and final edit, when I was ready to submit, when I had bravely discarded all the ‘Not sure’ and ‘Maybe’ parts of my novel. And I knew in my gut that even if people didn’t like my particular style of pickle, at least they wouldn’t break any teeth.

And the moral of the story – A Bad Nut is a Bad Nut, no matter how many times you poke it. Stop prevaricating and go with your gut feeling. Save yourself time that could be better spent writing and bin Bad Nuts on the first read.*

*NB – You can always go green and recycle them if it makes you feel better. See my post from this time last year ‘The Cutting Room Floor’ , but note also that I never used any of my offcuts after all…

Update: October 2011 and the walnuts are ready for eating. Guess what, they taste great…but one or two have them slipped through the net and are still too crunchy for comfort. I guess what my nuts needed was an editor.