My story, Bess of the Mill’ appeared in last week’s People’s Friend magazine. Michael Thomas did the illustration and I’m utterly delighted with it. The three main characters with the windmill in the background are exactly as I pictured them in my mind and I feel now as if they’ve been properly brought to life.
This story has a special place in my heart. I’ve been fascinated by windmills since I was a child – I find them so iconic and romantic. Before long I was desperate to write a historical short story set in one and began doing research, plus character portraits. It took a long, long time to get it right though. I started off with a story following three generations of women, all associated with the windmill – almost a mini saga. But the feedback from editors was there was too much going on for a short story and that the plot lacked focus. I tried a couple of re-writes, but in the end the story had to stay on my hard drive as I moved on to other things. As a writer you do sometimes have to let go…
I still thought back to the windmill. I had done a lot of research and had documented a history, a time line and a lot of information about my characters. (Come to think of it, perhaps I should have turned it into a novel…) It seemed such a shame to let it all go to waste and something was niggling me – I knew I had something but couldn’t identify a way to make it work. It was over coffee with a writing friend that I decided to go back to the drawing board. She told me that a period story set in a windmill was something she would want to read and urged me to go for it. I’m so grateful for that chat – it made a big difference.
I knew my setting was strong, now I just needed to find a way to make it work as a short story. I looked at my characters and picked the one who spoke most strongly to me, the one I’d developed the most. This was Bess, a young lady whose father owned the windmill at the turn of the century. It was Bess and her dilemma over which man to marry that had enough in it to carry the story.
Finally I had got it right! The People’s Friend said ‘yes’ and it felt like my own happy ending! So, if you have an idea, setting or character that just won’t go away, I urge you to stick with it, play around with it, mix things up. You never know where it’ll lead.
In other news, I managed to achieve a short listing in the latest Word Hut competition. They are fun and well organised contests – here’s the link if you’re interested though they’re taking a break from competitions at the moment. This comp, run by Wrekin Writers, is taking entries though and the profits go to a really good cause.
I’m super busy right now and I know I keep saying this but I’ll keep trying to be a better blogger – watch this space and there might just be another post before Christmas!!
Take care all and happy writing.