Tuesday 26 July 2022

Drafts 8 & 9 Helga’s Story

Christmas, Present, Gifts, Holiday, Xmas

Draft 8 is about tension and Draft 9 about pace.  I didn’t really find anything about either of these things on my read through. Doe this mean I’m becoming complacent? Or have I mastered that aspect of my craft? Let’s see what the critics say later.

 However, I found a few things that needed attention as I worked though Draft 9.

The final chapter reveals the identity of Helga’s mysterious benefactor. He is one who has formerly persecuted her. Yet he appears to continue to do that.  I’ve had to add a narrative that he deliberately does that because he doesn’t want people to think he’s gone soft.

We have a blocked drain in Chapter 5. In fact it’s a drain that keeps on blocking. It has to be linked to what the Thomases are doing to the Müllers’ farm – or it doesn’t need to be there at all.

There were also a few numerical things to firm up – the number of interviews Jamie had had and the size of the farm where she is eventually offered a job.    

Sunday 17 July 2022

Draft 6 and 7 of Helga’s Story

                Cave, Hole, Landscape, Blue Sky, Sunny

Draft 6 is all about making sure that the characters are consistent, rounded and believable. I actually didn’t find a lot to do here. I have sharpened a little the one who might be described as the antagonist.

I noticed something else as well as I worked my way through this draft. Each chapter with Helga as the main character portrays her life during the Holocaust as it relates to something that is happening in 2001. The connection wasn’t quite working in one case. She was supposed to be talking about what it was like being a single mother but she talked more about what made her sleep with Jamie’s natural grandfather in the first place. This was easy to rectify. I just had to change one of her speeches.

Draft 7 is about cause and effect and here is a real opportunity to look for any plot holes. I did find that there was one sub-plot that had no closure. This was rectified by adding a paragraph to the final chapter.

I realised that I had made the grandmother with whom Helga lived in her youth a maternal grandmother rather than a paternal one. She needed to be the paternal one. This meant rewriting one paragraph.

There was also something not properly explained in part of the back story. How did the Thomas farm stay in the family when Tom Thomas’s son, Thomas Thomas was unable to farm because of a disability?  Well, by the time someone needed to take over from Tom Thomas, the Thomases had two children who were brought up to be farmers. So they had to hire help which also helped to explain why the Thomases could never afford to buy the farm off the Müllers. Again, I needed to add a paragraph.

And so it continues.    

Sunday 10 July 2022

The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson


A library exists on an Underground station. It contributes to a whole small society that hunkers down there, with three tier bunks, a hairdresser and a theatre. It exists in the shadow of the Bethnal green Tube Station disaster, which also features in this book.

Such a library did exist though the one Kate Thompson has given us is bigger and more like an overground library in terms of opening times, the people who worked there and who visited, and the activities offered.  

Thompson has been thorough in her research and much of this was conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic. Each chapter is headed with a quote from a librarian about the value of books and libraries. The chapter reflects what was in the quote – even having protagonist Clara Button painting her only decent pair of shoes black when she goes for an important conversation with her boss. Like the lady in the quote, she finds that her shoes drip all over the floor.

This text again poses the question about how much should we and can we fictionalise what has actually happened.

Novelists are anyway professional liars who tell an awful lot of truth. Thompson does this here and can be forgiven for bending the facts a little. She captures the emotional essence of a young widow who has lost her husband in a tragic way, of the young girl who lost her sister in that terrible night in Bethnal Green and of a young man who has a secret he cannot share easily with his fiancée.

At times the characters speak rather too rationally or philosophically for them to be completely convincing.  

Nevertheless, this is a very satisfying read. Thompson also treats us to insights into her research at the end of the novel.

It is also bang up to date: the opening and closing scenes are set in 2021, with one of the main characters revisiting the site of the little library. She draws parallels between the restrictions imposed because of Covid and those imposed because of World War II. In both cases books offer an escape.          

Monday 4 July 2022

Drafts 4 and 5 of Helga’s Story


Vintage, Watch, Timepiece, Antique

Yes, I have now completed drafts 4 & 5 of Helga’s Story.

Draft 4 

This is all about time and making sure it works.  I tend to have time planned in but as the story take over this may slip a little. So, now I’ve gone back and made sure that the time is logical in each chapter.  Will they have enough time to do what I making them do?  Beware of eleven month pregnancies and do allow them to sleep and eat and perform other human functions even if you don’t go into detail. In fact, please don’t go into detail.  

Some chapters, particularly where Helga is reminiscing about the past, cover several years. By contrast Jamie’s chapters cover just one or two days, but we sometimes skip forward within a chapter.

I’ve now put the place and the date at the beginning of each chapter. Now, I need to decide whether I’m going those places and dates in. And whether to have precise dates or just a month.

I have noticed as I’ve started Draft 6 that I need to reorder a couple of chapters and if I do decide to keep the labels I’ll have to relabel.

Draft 5

This is deciding whether the text suits the reader and the market. This is a little difficult in this case. There are only a few works which show this German point of view. Yet it does contain many of the characteristics of historical fiction and in particular of novels set in the 1940s. Yet it is different again because we have the 21st century part.  Readers and whoever published this will decide in the end.

I’m at least reasonably happy that the text is consistent with itself and speaks to the same reader throughout.

Other things I noticed

In Draft 4 I found another instance of quad bike that I have now changed to quad-bike.

A crucial sub plot is on character’s girlfriend finishing with him. I thought I’d made this happen on two separate occasions I hadn’t. I had one instance of her been disgruntled with him and then a reference later on to her ending the relationship.

In Draft 5 I say that Helga began to call Eberhard Bear, just like his sister Gisela did. However, she never does as she tells Jamie of her past. So I’ve altered this to say she sometimes called him Bear.

Two sets of holiday cottages are mentioned: one at the big farm complex where Jamie is offered a job and potential ones on the Jenkins’ farm. In both cases I had to make sure the references were logical.

I had made Helga’s mother’s hair both wavy and straight.  I settled on straight or even just “long, dark and shiny”.