In Rachel Clare’s debut novel, her main protagonist struggles with coming to terms with her facial birthmark. Using her own experiences with having cerebral palsy, Rachel has used her personal triumphs to enhance the storyline. Here are her top 7 tips for doing this:
My first tip is: Never give up. Growing up with a disability, I constantly had to think of ways around my problems, from tying my shoelaces to holding a pen. Now, whenever I encounter a problem in my writing, such as with a character or plotline, I take some time away from it, enabling me to return with fresh eyes and often taking a new direction.
My second tip is: Always carry a notebook with you, especially on holiday. Four years ago exactly I took a notebook to Marrakech with me. As it was hot, the trips were in the afternoons, giving me the opportunity the following morning to write about what I’d seen, smelt, heard and tasted. I noted my observations in a journal, just as a memento of my holiday. Six months later, in the depths of winter, I reread it and, transported back to Morocco, I began to form a story set in the spice-scented souks.
My third tip is: Write what is at the heart of you. I always wanted to write about a character who overcomes her problems through perseverance and determination. In order to write this, however, I had to give her different difficulties to the ones I have, to give myself distance from the story as it is a work of fiction.
My fourth tip is: Write the first draft for yourself. This enabled me to develop my characters and story the way I felt was right. I really got inside my characters’ heads and had lots of fun dreaming up situations to put them in and gauging their reactions.
My fifth tip is: When you’ve completed your first draft, give it to someone to read whom you trust to give you an honest opinion. I was extremely lucky as my mum, Pamela Evans, has read thousands of novels and I knew that she would give me an informed and trusted opinion. We had a lot of very fruitful discussions and she helped me see, in particular, if a character or part of the plot required further development. It is vital to see your novel through another person’s eyes in this developmental stage and potentially saves you a lot of rewriting later on.
My sixth tip is: Be patient. Due to my disability, things have never come easily to me. But I used each set back to spur me on to finally achieve success in the academic world, gaining a BA Hons and a MA. It’s the same with my writing. After working on it for barely a year, I submitted my novel to publishers. When I heard nothing back, I took a dispassionate look at my work and completed several rewrites before submitting a second time.
My seventh tip is: Don’t lose the enjoyment of free writing. From being a child, I’ve always enjoyed writing and creating worlds as an escape from the everyday. Even when I was mired in editing and re-editing my novel, I still managed to write something new in my notebook every evening.
Can you ever leave the past behind? Roses of Marrakech is a breathtaking romantic fiction, set between 1944 and 2016. Following the story of Ivy Fielding as she is left her beloved great-aunt Rose’s cottage, a discovery of an old diary catapults us on a trail of discovery between wartime Suffolk and the spice-scented souks of Morocco. It’s available to buy from Amazon, The Boko Guild and all good bookshops.