The Bridesmaid Pact tells the story of four friends: Doris, Sarah, Caz and Beth, who watch Diana and Charles getting married as eight year olds and and make a vow to be each other's bridesmaids when they grow up, and then for a variety of reasons fail to do so...
I think I am quite pleased with the end result (though so far all readers seem to have cried, I presume this is a good sign(-:), but I can honestly say this book was an utter pig to write.
When I started it, it all seemed to be going so well too - as I blogged here - though I recognised from the off this book was going to be a slightly painful one to write, the first few scenes did literally write themselves.
But oh dear, god, once I got going, it was like getting blood out of a stone. I spent the best part of last year not being able to settle to it - as I may have mentioned before Prevarication is my middle name - and whenever I did sit down to write it seemed to go painfully slowly. Initially I was supposed to finish by the end of the summer term. FAIL. I was only a quarter of the way through. My lovely editor kindly extended the deadline to October, and my plan then was to take my laptop away on holiday and write while my children splashed happily in the pool. MAJOR FAIL. As blogreaders may remember, thanks to a panic attack which sent me to Casualty the day before we went, I was in no fit state to do anything when we got there. I did, however discover, that writing by hand made the story flow better. So I bought some notebooks and started to scribble away. This was all fine and dandy up to a point, but when I came home my panicky state meant I could barely bear to go near a computer, so I ended up writing the majority of the book by hand.
It was only when I came to type it up that I realised a) how little I'd actually written (the book was probably about 20 000 words light on its first draft and b) how very long it takes to type things up. So it was I had another deadline FAIL and Spouse wasn't best pleased when we went to my mother's for the weekend and I spent the whole time typing away on the laptop.
However, I got there in the end. Finished book sent it off and waited for a response.
Now, my normal MO for writing is, I get an idea, the characters form in my head, usually a pivotal scene jumps out at me, all during my prevarication period, and THEN I sit down and write a reasonably detailed synopsis. It's kind of like an essay plan, or a hanger on which the bare bones of the plot are laid out, and I fill in the gaps. I've got into that way of writing, and its where I feel comfortable. However, this time, my brilliant system went tits up.
For a start, the characters all started clammering to talk to me. Although Doris is my main character, the others wanted their share of the limelight too, and they all wanted to tell their story in the first person (something I haven't attempted since my very first failed ms), PLUS there had to be a lot of switching back and forth between past and present which quite frankly did my head in. And I was conscious the whole time that I needed to get their individual voices right - Doris was relatively easy, she's quite dappy but also terribly smart (I knew two fearfully clever girls at uni who were brunettes but behaved like dizzy blondes, then freaked boys out by being cleverer then them, and I thought it would be fun to have a character like that), and Caz, who is probably the spikiest and least likeable character I have written was great fun as she belligerently popped out of nowhere, but in my first draft Sarah (the sensible one) and Beth (the shy one) were in danger of appearing interchangeable, though I hope I've sorted that now.
Another reason that this book was hard, was because while I haven't had any of the experiences my characters have, I did dip into a whole well of emotion from things I have experienced to tell their stories, and it turned out to be quite a difficult thing to do. I think it would have been tricky anyway, but the writing and rewriting coincided with one of the most stressful periods of my life in recent years, and hence the first draft was a little short on humour, shall we say. Again, I hope I've fixed that now(-:
Finally, when I came to do the first rewrites, my lack of planning showed through woefully - my editor said wisely that it was like trying to fit a jigsaw puzzle together, and I can tell you getting the bits in the right place was bloody hard work. And I had another Major Fail when I missed that deadline twice (I really thought I could do it before Christmas, but no, and then promised to get it in in January, and Christmas was such a disaster I missed that one too.)
I am IMMENSELY grateful to all the lovely people at Avon who a) have been sympathetic and understanding beyond the call of duty during my trials and tribulations and b) have bust a gut to make up for my tardiness, whilst also working their rocks off to get me the loveliest cover imaginable. Thanks guys, I promise to do better next time.
When it came to rewrite 2, I then realised that for a wedding book, it wasn't really very weddingy. So I spent ages researching dresses (I am really really crap at describing what people wear), and tapped into as many wedding memories of mine and other weddings I've been to, to get the right feel. Phew. I think the balance is right now.
But my worst moment was at the copyediting stage, when I had less then a week, as it came in over half term, and I realised to my horror that NONE of my dates matched up. I think I've got it right now, as I had to write a proper timeline (NOTE TO SELF: Do this at the beginning next time), but if you do happen to find a mistake, please don't send me dozens of emails to tell me. I really don't want to know...
Still, I got there in the end, and like I say, to the best of my ability (it is almost impossible to judge your own work accurately) I think its ok. I certainly like the characters and their situations, and I hope I can make you laugh and cry with them.
Having done it all wrong this time around, I am hoping to learn from the experience next time. So my latest plan is to disappear periodically to the library with my laptop to escape the perils of internet timewasting and make me feel like I'm properly going out to work. Working from home, particularly with my current set of domestic responsibilities means it's all too easy to put work on the back burner. I am hoping if I can discipline myself a bit more, I stand some chance of meeting my next deadline. Well that's the plan....
As usual, my story has a soundtrack, and for the Bridesmaid Pact it goes like this:
White Wedding by Billy Idol - had to be soundtrack for the book, didn't it? I've always loved the energy of this song, and I think it's particularly apposite for Caz's wedding at the beginning of the book.
You Know I'm no Good Amy Winehouse for Caz. You have to hand it to Amy, she has a brilliant knack of turning her personal disasters into fabulous songs. Caz is the wild child of the quartet, so this song sums her up.
However, when I heard Wire to Wire by Razorlight on the radio one day, I thought wow, this could have been written for Caz. It really fits her self destructive sadness, and sends shivers up my spine. Fab, fab, fab song.
I love the high energy of Let me Entertain You by Robbie Williams , which is a great party track and totally suitable for Doris' joie de vivre, battiness and hen night with her mates.
Pure by the Lightning Seeds is one of my favourite love songs, and just for Doris and Darren's relationship. Pure and simple all the time. I'm always a little in love with my leading men, but I adore Darren. He's very cute.
The Shadow of Love by the Damned is a great gothic song which fits Caz very well - if she were to get married, I can see her doing it goth style...
and Always on my Mind by the Petshop Boys (yes I know they covered Elvis, but I do love their vierson) is just right for Caz and Charlie
Thanks to a flurry of tweets on Twitter one day, I had a great Fleetwood Mac fest, and have ended up with Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac for Sarah - is there a better break up song?
As well as, Love is a Losing Game by Amy Winehouse - the sad poignant melancholy of this song fits Sarah's sense of loss perfectly.
Caz doesn't know her dad and feels the loss keenly, so Oh Daddy by Fleetwood Mac (thank you Twitterverse) was the obvious choice here, more for the emotions then the lyrics. I think it is powerful, sad and heartrending. Perfect!
Songbird more Fleetwood Mac for Beth, who hides a painful secret, and somehow this song sums up her pain for me as well as giving hope for the future. Plus it's just BEAUTIFUL.
The Man with the Child in his Eyes for Beth and Matt - don't know why, it seems to fit their story somehow.
The Sadness Runs Through Him by the Hoosiers is another heartrending song which fits Beth and Matt, whose situation particularly gets to me.
Before I fall to Pieces by Razorlight is for Caz, who has to stumble a little on the way to finding redemption. Again this song seemed to capture her perfectly.
Hurt by Johnny Cash is the pivotal song of the book, for Doris and Darren particularly, but for al the characters in their own different ways. And it always makes me weep...
And finally, Doris is obsessed with all things Disney and this is a book about friendship, so You've Got A Friend in Me by Randy Newman from Toy Story is the perfect swan song!