In March at the beginning of the Covid 19 crisis I had been sitting at my computer for hours, clacking away on the keyboard in an attempt to reach the ending of my current novel before the deadline. Next morning I woke early and debated, shall I get up, or not. But old habits die hard. I am a professional writer after all.

The Lonely Wife

The Lonely Wife

I’m used to isolation; I need to be alone when transporting myself back into the 19thc, my preferred period for writing regional historical fiction: but lockdown was disturbing; the concept of losing the freedom to walk and breathe a different air, or pass the time of day with neighbours, was a very strange concept.

This is still our world today. None of us expected this episode in our lives to last so long. It seems to me as a witness and observer, for observing is one of the most important things we learn when becoming writers, is that life is changing; are we entering a different existence, akin to a dystopian novel where everything we hold dear disappears and we clutch onto life in order to survive?

The Lonely Wife has been long gone to my editor, passing through expert hands of copy editor, production editor, proof readers and cover designers.

I reached The End late one afternoon in April; I closed down the computer so that I didn’t feel compelled to tinker with it. The ending had arrived quite naturally and I was happy with it. A satisfactory finale after much conflict. A relief to know The End had finally been written.

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But had it? Sleeping on it is a different matter entirely and emerging the following morning from the hypnopompic state, when I explored the part-hidden dreams of the night, I reached inside my characters’ minds, male and female, who it seemed had come to the same conclusion: it wasn’t finished.

There isn’t always a clear and sharp cut-off point when finishing a novel, any more than there will be a cut off finale with Covid 19. The pandemic will live on in our minds even if it moves away from our bodies.

In a book of fiction the author has control even if it appears that the characters are speaking for themselves. But as I listened to my characters, seriously listened, I realised that the original ending wasn’t entirely true to their own individual selves as I had created them, and that they would have acted differently had they been flesh and blood; and so I changed the ending; and this time I know I have it right.

There are many who have lost the battle of Covid; there are always innocent casualties, but what about the rest of us? We need strength to continue; we can’t hide behind a curtain of fiction though there is a real possibility that it will help us get through it. This is real life and we can’t yet write The End.

Val Wood

‘A novel is a mirror walking along a main road.’ Henri Beyle 1783-1842 French novelist

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The writing of my recent novel FOUR SISTERS aroused many memories within me, not least because I was one of three sisters. Three Smart Girls, my father fondly called us; the term apparently coming from an old film that he had seen in his youth... to read more click HERE