The Northern Elements – Endgame

Street urchinI am finding that you reach a point in making a story where everything falls into place and you can see the destination. There is still some way to go but you know what happens – what has to happen – to get to the end.

There may still be some research to do for the sake of authenticity; there will certainly be a need to look back through the manuscript to make sure there are no continuity problems, and I will still need to be very careful not to gallop (or slouch) to the last page. There will still be tinkering with the emotional temperature and with the pacing but I can see the end now. The question of what happens next is resolved. There will be no new characters. The readers’ questions will all be answered within – say – a fortnight. Of course, that will be a completed first draft only but it will be like walking out into sunlight. For a while

And then there’s the editing. However, I’m still looking to publish in early summer.

I have found it very difficult to write the blurb for this one. Here’s how it stands for the moment. I think I’ll have to keep working it:

The Northern Elements is so called because the ancient elements of earth, air, fire, and water are thematic threads woven into the story. Set in Lancashire, in 1890 and 1960, it involves two gangs of small boys and their adventures. The secret that links the two gangs emerges in the second part of the novel, which is set in the present day.

Ian Thomson explores aspects of identity which are the product of a specific time and elements which can be said to be universal in our nature. He writes with characteristic wit and sharpness of observation about the world as seen by boys on the brink of adolescence in a cotton town in the North.

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“Continuity problems.” Ah, yes. Plotting and keeping track of characters and their histories is always a challenge. I find file cards hard to beat. Dates, physical details, quirks, and the odd biographical note keep one on the straight and narrow. There’s no digital equivalent that’s as convenient.

‘Elements’ is only 45,000 words or so, and so it has been possible to keep most things in my head, although the beautiful notebook my last sixth form bought me contains character notes, a family tree, printouts of newspaper entries and so on. For the big novels like Martin and H&J, I used index cards too. I didn’t write the chapters in order until the stories were well advanced and then I found it helpful to spread the cards out on the dining table and to shuffle them until they acquired what I hoped would be a certain ‘inevitability’.

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