The Trials of Writing About Loss
When I first started the task of writing FUTURE CONFRONTED, I didn’t really know where to start. I had many scenarios in my head. Should I start from when Rob was born? Should I perhaps start from when he first became ill? I knew that I needed to engage the reader from the first paragraph, but I wasn’t sure quite how to do it.
After many false starts over the years I eventually decided to start with myself as a young girl in London where I lived with my brother and mother and father in the house that my Grandfather had bought back in 1927. This house had survived bomb damage during World War II, and because it had survived, I always felt safe and content there. I decided to compare a particularly happy childhood memory with our devastating memory on Butser Hill, some forty years later. To me it felt as though the comparison embedded the sadness and devastation of our loss.
It’s difficult to find a voice when describing the events of losing a child. It would have been easier to just relate the facts without a human voice, but that wouldn’t have conveyed the strength of Rob’s determination. I love to talk, so to this end I decided to write it as though I were actually having a conversation with someone who didn’t know me or any of our family. This imaginary person was sitting across the table from me waiting to hear what I had to say. It worked for me because I had a visual, an anchoring point to which I could pin myself.
As time went on, this person sitting opposite me began to grow into a real person. I looked forward to talking to her. In my head I had given her a name, she had a life, and that is when I found that I could freely open up to her, and tell her Rob’s story. She didn’t interrupt, she didn’t have an opinion; she just listened to me. It made the telling, the writing, less traumatic. It was excruciating sometimes in the reliving, I would dissolve into tears as the details crowded inside my head. Sorting them out was difficult. I needed to put them coherently so that what I was trying to say didn't get smothered. It was quite frankly one of the most difficult tasks of the writing.
I have a real need to write. I have always kept a Diary and a Journal. In my Diary for May, June, and July 1997 there were no comments, just times of appointments for clinics and a funeral, written in an even hand. Whereas in my Journal, the details of those 49 days from diagnosis to passing away are scrawled, sometimes in large writing, sometimes so small it is difficult to read. I had not taken notice of the ruled lines, I had just scrawled my feelings in many directions, as though I were shouting, or whispering. I know now, looking back, that the large writing was when I was angry, and shouting and the small writing was when I was whispering, and dared to hope. In the beginning we had hope, but over those few short weeks it became evident that there was no hope, nothing to hang on to.
Back in 2004 I sent part of my original MS to several publishers to see if I could get the book published. As many of you know, they don’t always answer very quickly, if at all. The MS of all those years ago, when looking at it now, is nothing like the finished version; and I am not surprised that they turned me down, albeit gently.
This year, having just retired, I decided it was time to complete Rob’s story. So it went through a complete rewrite. I had my sensible head on and went through it methodically. It was draining. I reread my Diary and my Journal and tried to put Rob’s story into some sort of chronological order where possible.
FUTURE CONFRONTED is now with the proof-reader and the copy-editor. I was going to try and do it all myself, as erroneously I thought that's what self-publishers did. But after some really good advice, I chose to let my work go to someone who could do a much better job than I. Also, after receiving good advice, I decided to have my book cover professionally designed, and I am so pleased that I did. It looks really lovely.
The plan is to publish the book before Christmas. I am proud to say that I am self-publishing, through Amazon, but it is a decision yet to be finalised, as other avenues are also open to me. I don’t feel that I am a lesser author for self-publishing; I see it as just another route to getting the book out there. After all, the main reason for writing is for someone to read your work. How you get it out there surely is up to you.
I now proudly see myself as an Indie Author, and look forward to writing more books. The stories in my head are now pushing forward, and it’s just a case of choosing which one I will tackle first.