The Art of Writing, a Guest Post by Meg Carter, Author of The Day She Can’t Forget

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I’m thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for The Day She Can’t Forget by Meg Carter. The Day She Can’t Forget was published by Canelo on 24th October 2016 and is available for purchase in e-book by following the publisher links here.

To celebrate publication of The Day She Can’t Forget I have a fabulous guest post from Meg all about the art of writing and how experience isn’t always necessary.

The Day She Can’t Forget

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It changed her life. But can she remember everything?

On a cold evening Zeb, a single mum in her thirties, is found wandering aimlessly on a remote road. She is dazed, confused and bloodied.

She doesn’t know where she is, or how she got there. She has travelled far from home and someone has attacked her.

Memory loss means she can trust no-one, and with her assailant unidentified, Zeb is desperate to be reunited with her son Matty, and to ensure their safety.

But what will her search for the truth uncover? Will it bring answers, or more questions? And what if the person she can rely on the least… is herself?

The Art Of Writing

A Guest Post by Meg Carter

The history of journalists who have turned their hand to writing novels is long and proud. But earning a living through factual writing is no guarantee your fiction will be a success. If anything, it can blinker you to the immensity of the task you have set yourself.

I started writing my first novel – The Lies We Tell, which was published last year – after working in journalism for just shy of 20 years. This, and the fact I studied English Literature at London University and have always been a voracious reader made me feel (and I wince now at the thought of it) confident that I could do it.

I soon realised my mistake.

Writing 100,000-plus words isn’t just writing a feature on a much bigger scale. It’s about creating from scratch a credible and compelling world, populating it with characters whose complexities engage and mastering the unfolding of a plot at pace. And while I did eventually get there – and find an agent, have that book published and embark on a second: The Day She Can’t Forget, which was published October 24th – the journey was long and arduous.

Certainly, there are advantages when as a journalist you write fiction. A working life-time spent observing, analysing an explaining for a start. I’ve always been a collector of stories – at first, factual and issues-based to inform my journalism; latterly, human stories from family, friends and features to trigger fictional ideas about character, plot and motivation. So I had no shortage of ideas and inspiration.

My starting point for The Day She Can’t Forget, for example, was an image I’ve had in my head since hearing a tea-time news report on Radio 4 when I was still living with my parents about a man found wandering along a remote Scottish highland road, coatless and bloodied, unable to recall his name, what had happened to him or why he was there. Other real life stories that fed into my thinking included the case of ‘Canoe Widow’ Anne Darwin and what happened to the former British nanny Louise Woodward.

The dramatic opener is another journalistic conceit and literary equivalent, I guess, of a newspaper headline. Then there’s dialogue. Having interviewed people and recorded answers word for word for years, the voices – and body language – of the characters I create play and re-play like a podcast inside my head.

A career as a journalist also helps you view writing as a task with an understanding of the need for forward momentum and regular self-imposed deadlines. The blank page has never scared me. But there’s a downside to this, even though it might sound like a plus. Because at times, writing the next sequence can almost be too easy. And the danger with this is that the wild horse of an idea you are trying to tame carries you away. What’s critical is to be able to acknowledge the need to develop and practice new, longer-form storytelling skills and this takes a quality not every journalist possess: humility.

Journalists used to quickly turning around short-form pieces of copy can also struggle to stick with a longer format – especially with the constant editing and re-editing required, in particular once an agent and then an editor step in. One friend of mine on hearing I’d completed a further re-drafting of my first novel after finding an agent exclaimed she couldn’t think of anything worse. She works for a news agency, and her preferred approach to writing is research, write, publish then – most importantly: quickly move on.

Even though I am a former magazine editor whose freelance career has also involved editing and re-writing factual copy written by others, editing my own copy has its challenges. While I can be cold and clinical about what’s working and what must change, the input of an agent and editor is invaluable. The process of responding to their feedback inevitably makes the final book all the better – even if you don’t always agree, as they push back with their Whys? and What ifs?

Without doubt, aspects of what it takes to be a journalist – curiosity, observation skills, the ability to explain, to name just three – are invaluable for writing fiction, along with empathy, skin thick enough for negative feedback, perseverance and drive. The good news, however, is that none of these qualities is restricted to any particular type of person or, indeed, members of a single profession.

About Meg Carter

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Meg Carter is an author and journalist.

She is the author of The Day She Can’t Forget, published by Canelo on October 24 2106, and The Lies We Tell, published in 2015.

Meg worked as a journalist for twenty years before turning her hand to fiction. Her features have appeared in many newspapers, magazines and online with contributions to titles including You magazine, Independent, Guardian, Financial Times, and Radio Times.

Now based in Bath, she recently relocated from west London with her husband and teenage son.

Meg is on the advisory committee of Women in Journalism and a member of writers collective 26.

The Day She Can’t Forget is Meg’s second novel. She is currently working on her third.

You can find out more about Meg on her website and by following her on Twitter. There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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