Against all odds, writing my second novel turned out to be so much easier than my first…
My first novel The Butterfly Garden took me four years to write so when I was given a deadline of six months by my publisher to write the second, I was frankly terrified! I worked out that if I wrote 5000 words a week during term time then I could finish a first draft by Easter. Another lockdown and home-school was always at the back of my mind but I never really thought it would happen. I mean the government was determined to keep the schools open right? Boris said so time and time again. So, when his announcement came on that dark day at the beginning of January my heart sank along with the rest of the country’s. And completing a first draft by Easter became an increasingly unlikely prospect.
Instead, I spent the next two months churning out three meals a day, teaching phonics and crafting Supertato’s side-kick out of felt, making parachutes to drop over the stairs to measure velocity, exercising dogs and children in the never-ending wind and rain. And the cleaning! The torrent of paper, sequins, glitter, food and mud that four children, one dog, two cats and two bunnies left in their wake. But I persevered with writing, set my alarm for 5:45 and worked from my bed with bleary eyes for two hours before school began. And then again in the evenings, I would tag-team with my husband and retreat to his office at the bottom of the garden in the hope that no-one would be desperate enough to brave the cold night to come and bother me! It was exhausting, and miserable at times, but it was also weirdly wonderful. Being with the kids twenty-four-seven at a stage in their lives when we would otherwise just be a fuelling station was a surprising bonus. And I was, against all odds, quite prolific.
I soon realised there is nothing like a deadline and very little time to achieve it, to focus the mind. And there is something to be said for being utterly alone in the writing process. I had written my first novel at the same time as doing a creative writing course and whilst the workshopping and critiquing was invaluable as a novice writer it did result in relentless drafts and overhauls of my manuscript. But with no-one to tell me that my story didn’t make sense or my characters were flawed and unlikely, I just rolled on with blind confidence.
Another factor that enabled speedy writing was the structure of The Sapphire Cove. It follows the lives of three women and I wrote each of their stories separately, then wove them together afterwards. And that had huge psychological as well as logistical benefits, the overwhelming wordcount of a completed manuscript made so much more achievable when divided into three shorter novellas.
And I had a far more cohesive plan this time round. My tutor taught me that novelists fall into two distinct categories, the ‘planners’ and the ‘pantsers’ – who literally fly by the seat of their pants. I definitely winged it first time round and enjoyed the freedom and the creative chaos that it implied. But much though I liked the idea of myself as a ‘pantser’ just going with the literary flow, I have now come to terms with my less romantic identity of ‘planner’. A detailed synopsis and chapter breakdown before I had even started was surprisingly reassuring and knowing what I had to achieve every day as I sat down at my computer, so much less intimidating than the ominous blank page. And I did achieve it! I finished that first draft in the couple of weeks that the kids returned to school before Easter. So, whilst I didn’t save any lives like the NHS heroes or work tirelessly on the front-line like so many incredible people in the last two years of the pandemic, I did at least achieve my own not-quite-so-significant goal and learnt a lot about myself in the process.
(c) Sophie Anderson
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About The Sapphire Cove:
My mother kept me. But she let my only sister go…
Flora has fled from her broken marriage to take care of her sick mother, in an isolated farmhouse with ice on its windows. She is shaken by her mother’s pale worn face and is determined to make her feel safe and looked after. But as she draws heavy curtains and lights fires, she makes a shocking discovery. Hidden at the bottom of a drawer lies a crumpled photo of a smiling baby girl she doesn’t recognise. A photo her mother refuses to talk about…
As Flora delves into the story behind her mother’s secret photograph, begging her for details, she is devastated to uncover a hidden teenage love affair, a dark betrayal and two little girls tragically split apart. Flora’s childhood was lonely and quiet, and she is shocked to learn things should have been very different.
As the world Flora knows crumbles around her ears, she is rescued from darkness by Joseph, a man she has never met, who has travelled from his far-away home above a sapphire cove in the Philippines. As they sip tea at Flora’s battered kitchen table Joseph begs Flora for her help. The baby in the picture is someone from Flora’s past, and she is dying.
With the clock ticking, Flora boards a plane, desperate to meet the girl from the photograph. But nobody gets to decide who dies and who stays alive. Will she arrive in time, or is she too late to find out why two innocent little girls were forced to live on opposite sides of the world? And will finding the truth about her real family free her from the pain of her past?
A heartbreaking and emotional read about love, letting go and a family torn apart in the saddest of circumstances. Fans of Jodi Picoult, Lucinda Riley and Jojo Moyes will never forget The Sapphire Cove.
Order your copy online here.