Saturday, 6 February 2016

Recapturing the Joy – Windrunner’s Daughter

by Bryony Pearce

Every book provides its author with unique moments of satisfaction, but the first time an aspiring writer sees their name in print is extraordinarily special.

For me that moment was eight years ago when I received my copy of the SCBWI book Undiscovered Voices 2008. In that book was the opening of the very first novel I ever completed, Windrunner’s Daughter.

That feeling of having a dream fulfilled is one that I’ve never quite recaptured and has left me feeling wistful every time I see a new debut author. I’m jealous, not of their success, but of the fact that they are living that moment, enjoying that unrepeatable high. 

Since Undiscovered Voices I have written five more books. Each novel has given me joy and taught me something new, but Windrunner’s Daughter was the special one. My first. My first idea, the first time I realised that I could sit and write a whole novel, the first time I received praise for my writing from professionals. This was the novel that taught me how to write.

I didn’t do courses, I never joined a critique group, or writing group, I didn’t go to conferences or events, I didn’t even buy a book on ‘how to write’. Instead I learned to write by writing. More specifically by writing Windrunner’s Daughter.

It wasn’t very good. I see that now. My basic idea was great, but my writing wasn’t. I hadn’t plotted properly, I overwrote terribly, I was trying to do too many things in one novel.

The message I really wanted to convey was a feminist one – that girls could do anything they set their mind to (I’m sick of hearing otherwise) – and that was getting lost in all the other stuff I was trying to say.

When my daughter started growing up, that the core message of Windrunner’s Daughter became more important to me than ever, and so I pulled it out and took another look.

Then I threw it away.

I literally rewrote the entire novel from scratch. I kept my basic idea, but pretty much everything else went. I used what I had learned in writing my other five novels, I plotted carefully, I kept focus on my main message and I wrote a book that felt right.

And now, exactly eight years to the day after I first saw my name over the title Windrunner’s Daughter, the novel is in print. It is a science fiction story, set on a semi-terraformed Mars, about a girl who has to save her family, and perhaps her whole society, by defying the patriarchy that wants to keep her in her place.

What am I saying with this final blog post of mine? Whatever you aspire to do, keep trying, never give up – you can do whatever you set your mind to. Remember your moments of joy and keep working to recapture them. And hell, read my newest / oldest book: