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A Writer On Writing: Escape To The Country

Sally Jenkins receives wise words from novelist and short story writer Patsy Collins.

Patsy Collinsí debut novel, Escape to the Country, was published last month. I asked her the following question, desperate to know the answer.

How did you make the transition from short stories to novels i.e. getting used to the increased depth needed for a novel?

Short answer Ė accidentally and gradually. I suppose youíre looking for increased depth in my answer and wonít let me get away with that?

When I was about thirteen, my best friend and I started writing a book together. We didnít get very far and I suspect it probably wasnít much good. (Alarmingly she claims to still have it.) Trouble is, it takes time and effort to write a book and most of our efforts were directed in other directions (some of those directions played rugby for the sixth form team)

I didnít start writing again until about ten years ago, but once I got started I soon took it seriously. Probably I daydreamed about getting a novel published, but for quite a while it never occurred to me to start writing one. I worked on short stories for womenís magazines and did quite well with them. Donít suppose Iíll stop writing them.

Then there was Mavis. I planned to write a short story in which she killed herself Ė I canít now think why that seemed a good idea. Mavis didnít want to die. I kept trying to kill her (once I get an idea, even a bad one, it takes me a while to let it go) This took up words. Eventually I realised I was no longer writing a short story and decided to turn it into a novel. It took a long time as I had no plan, no idea where it was going or how to get there. Thereís 103,000 words of it now. I like it, but Iíve not yet found a publisher who shares my enthusiasm.

After I finished it, I found that although I still enjoyed writing short stories I missed having a big project to work on and decided to write another novel. Iíd learned a lot from my first attempt and chose a subject and style much more like that of my short stories. I reasoned that if people liked the short ones, they might also like a longer one. The second novel was planned out (very roughly) and because I knew where I was headed it was much easier to get there. I havenít yet sold that one either, but I reckon I might. Finally I got to Escape to the Country.

I havenít answered the question have I? Youíll notice Iíve written a lot of words though. Thatís how I build up a novel. Thereís an answer or an end in sight, but I donít go straight there. Events get in the way, characters turn up and complicate things, I fill in details that relate to or lead up to the answer, but which arenít actually the answer.

So to go back to my first answer (the only one you get as it turns out) I made the move from short stories to novels accidentally and I add the depth gradually.

Escape to the Country can be purchased for Kindle http://www.amazon.co.uk/Escape-To-The-Country-ebook/dp/B007OA1JHC/?tag=creativebook-21 and the print edition is available here http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=escape+to+the+country+Patsy+collins&rh=n%3A266239%2Ck%3Aescape+to+the+country+Patsy+collins&ajr=0

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