- What Is An Organic Novel?
An organic novel is perhaps the hardest type of book you could ever write. The author might have a vague idea of what they’re writing and why, but largely they’ve allowed themselves to go with the flow – starting with a basic story arc and adding to the flow as and when.
I’ve sat here and written organic novels and planned novels, so I know from experience that the organic novel is much harder to master but produces the better result.
A lot of authors will tell you they need to hear their characters’ voices to be able to write the story but in my experience, the story comes as strongly to me as the characters and no matter where the characters want to go, you, the author are in charge of their destiny. When a reader gets angry because the author killed off their favourite character, they might assume the author felt nothing when they killed off that character. They’d be wrong. The author feels the loss more than anyone and the author cuts themselves open to put difficult issues and trials on a page. As an author, it’s the hardest thing to do to say to yourself, “This is going to hurt but it must be done and I must go through with it…” Tackling difficult issues HURTS. Always emotionally, sometimes even physically when you’ve been sat in the same position all day and your fingers just won’t pen that difficult scene in the right way.
I don’t use beta readers. I discuss my books with my editor husband and nobody else. My best novel yet might be called Tainted Lovers but I didn’t allow it to become ‘tainted’ by too many cooks spoiling the broth.
- Art Is Organic
For me, art can’t be pre-planned; art is giving half of yourself over to the unknown and hoping for the best. It’s letting go of control and allowing your spirit to whirl around a black hole for as long and as painfully as you can take. In the process of writing the organic novel, you might be at war with yourself, or your editor, or yourself and your editor simultaneously, yourself and what you think readers want, yourself and yourself (if like me you sort of method write and start talking with the character who says, “I’d never fucking do that.”
Art is feeling the emotions of a story and not only subscribing to them but living them and absorbing them so that you know other human beings will feel the journey too. It’s hoping beyond hope that something so innately creative and “out there” might actually make sense to a bunch of individuals you don’t even know from Adam.
Art is knowing that the first line doesn’t have to be the best because a book is several lines. Which make a whole. It’s knowing when to make the sentences count, at what junctures do you need to dredge your soul, and how sometimes using greyscale so that when people do transform, it happens in multiple rainbows finally feeding the starved souls of readers ‘hoping beyond hope’.
Art is writing what isn’t pretty, but is necessary to the story. It’s about history, about humanity, about not lying to your reader about what life is like beyond their own castle walls.
- The Organism
Writing something from the gut means things you put down on paper might repulse some and delight others. It’s true and therefore everyone will have an opinion over something so solid, which you’ve written down in granite and therefore, cannot be changed. The reader might will the story to change but the author (bearing in mind I’ve always been told be careful how you use words – and I ignore that notion continually) cannot change that story because by pressing that publish button, they’ve already put it in stone.
What makes a book an organism is when the author leaves little crevices in a story for the reader to allow their own subplots to slide in. Many people become fond of side characters in books, because they’re people we can imagine for ourselves. The protagonists are often crafted in such a staunch way that they’re the pegs holding down the tent, the driving force of a book – so set in stone – they cannot always be changed. Heroes and heroines can lose their mystery the more story we give them and the more we peel away their shells to overcome each obstacle.
My most recent full-length novel Tainted Lovers was written organically and in some respects, I fought to keep it that way. I didn’t just fight with myself, or my editor, but I fought with every aspect of this novel and it was a fight to the finish line. I wrote about keeping it a standalone in this blog and looking back now, I am so glad I won that particular fight because making this a standalone book has created a living organism which readers now give life to with their reactions and their interpretations, plus lingering questions even as silly as, “Why did he never take his socks off?”
I took some awful issues to task in this novel, one of them being domestic abuse. More than three women who suffered domestic abuse themselves contacted me to say that the book reflected exactly how they felt when they themselves were in that situation. Some of these women had to take a few days and more afterwards to reflect on the story they’d read. I really never even considered whether I was doing justice to women in the same position as my female lead, Adrienne. I just wrote a story I felt in my heart and gut was real.
I love a story which keeps the pages turning. I love commercial fiction. Some books you forget quickly but they were good at the time. I write mainstream stuff as well as literary stuff. I like a balance. But sometimes, an idea comes along and you have to pursue it, no matter the cost. It’s a GIFT and a privilege that I get to do what I do.
Art has to reflect real life, or it won’t touch your readers. Art has to explode life… in a way you might not feel brave enough to do yourself. It’s why we read, why the romance and thriller genres remain the biggest selling genres in the world. Put the two together and you might just get a book to finally knock the socks off David Lewis, the man who once upon a time made love wearing socks…
I finish with one of the reviews I read of Tainted Lovers only yesterday:
There were so many twists that you just will not see coming. This book will not only touch your heart but will invade your soul and leave you reeling. The author went to great lengths to make this story and the characters complex yet completely relatable; and the poetry throughout, beautiful. I loved Ade’s strength and David’s passion, and together they made this story the beautiful masterpiece that it is.