Celia Moore is one of the members of Chudleigh Writers’ Circle and a regular contributor to this blog. She published her debut novel Fox Halt Farm in 2017, and has just finished writing the final part of her Fox Halt Farm Trilogy, which will be launched in October 2020. Today, she talks about how she no longer writes for herself.
“I am learning the craft of writing through trial and error but at the same time, I pick other people’s brains too. I have joined the Chudleigh writing group, and also, on-line author and blogging forums. I have read many more novels since I started writing my own books, gaining invaluable insight through the way they are written. My amazing editor has given me great tips too. I’ve read books about how to write a novel, plotting and storytelling, and listened carefully to precious feedback from my readers. All of these influencers have led me to change my approach to my writing.
My first novel was definitely, written for me, trying to put down the story that I dreamt up one night, a complicated tale which spanned more than twenty years. Writing it was cathartic, bringing back memories and reviewing relationships and my experiences in hindsight. Muddling them up, changing outcomes, and creating characters out of composites of many people who I came across in my fifty years on this planet. I was desperate to show my skill and how clever I was, putting such a tricky story together. But having published my book and receiving feedback, I realised the most pleasure I had, was from hearing that people enjoyed it and discussing the characters which were already so real to me. I loved the thought that my characters and my fictional settings had been part of other people’s lives for the short time they read my book. Suddenly, the act of giving my story to my readers was more fulfilling than the success of completing the book.
Discovering many of my readers loved the story, but didn’t like my hero, I started to analyse why, and to question, whether I minded that they didn’t? I think everyone strives to be liked, and because the series would have two more parts, I wanted my reader to be invested in the hero enough to crave the next episode. Originally, I set out to make Billy both emotionally, and physically, flawed. I wanted her to be real, believing characters with issues are far more interesting than perfect ones but I have tried to make her grow as the story progresses through each novel.
I have just finished the last part of my trilogy and, I have approached the story in a wholly different manner to the way I started the first book. The biggest change is the timescale. This new book runs over just 7 months which allowed me to delve deeper into emotion and how things happen rather than just the results and consequences. I explored hopes and fears, featuring Billy’s expectations about what will happen; she can hesitate and seek advice, and in doing this, my readers can empathise with her when things don’t go quite as she wanted, or feel her elation when they do.
In the same vein, I was delighted with the way my first book twisted and turned, but because it did, I was forced to spend much more time on the plot than on the characters, and now, having listened to feedback, I don’t think readers really care about the plot, they want to care about the characters: sharing their desires, wanting to cheer for them and fear for them too. I have simplified my plot now, so I can focus on feelings, humility, and hopefully, help my readers to connect with my characters.
I have painted and drawn ever since I was tiny, and I love the impressionist style, so I am not sure why, in my writing, I started off describing every tiny detail to my readers, when I don’t actually, like that kind of art. I can take a photo if that was what I wanted in a picture. And as a reader, I’ll often skip paragraphs of description to get on with the story. Now, I write allowing my reader to create their own pictures using the basic outlines that I try to provide.
The most important thing that I have tried in my third novel, is making Billy proactive; she doesn’t allow things to happen to her like she did in book 1. I have tried to define her by what she does, and her behaviour when things happen, rather than her tricky backstory. I am following her problems and not her life, wanting her to change with what happens to her and things to change because of what she does.
I have changed my approach radically, writing every word thinking how the reader will receive it, rather than the skill in choosing it, and how it sits in the sentence. My conflict in book 3 has more subtle undertones, and tricks and traps. I’ve made many other small changes too, for example foreshadowing plot twists to allow the readers to anticipate what is about to happen, trying to create suspense over shocking and sometimes, unsatisfying surprises.
My debut novel Fox Halt Farm is a change-of-life contemporary romance set on the outskirts of Dartmoor. Other locations include London and Paris. The story runs over two decades and is inspired by some of the experiences in my life and the people I’ve encountered along the way. The sequel is Culmfield Cuckoo. Both books are on Amazon as a paperback and ebook. I’m also on Facebook and on Twitter .”