It wasn’t my best ever NaNoWriMo: for that I still think my favourite story ever was 2011’s A Month of Living Vicariously. It cheered me up and made me laugh every time I read it for weeks afterwards. But this year was the most interesting in terms of process.
The plan I started with was to write a fictionalised autobiography. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that writing about how my life might have been, or how I would have liked it to be, was somehow devaluing the life I’ve actually lived. Don’t get me wrong: I go in for wishful thinking, what-ifs and if-onlys as much as anyone. But I’m also feeling pretty good about my life at the moment, which is a good place to be, and one I’m not proud of, because I’ve done nothing to earn it, but just very grateful for.
Instead of the autobiography, it morphed into the life story of someone who has livedthrough much the same historical period as I have (c. 1950 to the present day). (Good idea this, it means there’s less historical research necessary. Though still some: we found ourselves asking, When was the first supermarket introduced in Britain? When did DNA paternity testing become a thing?)
John (good name!) bears a dark inheritance: in every generation of his family there have been evil people, and his parents felt the burden of having to atone for this, or somehow make amends so that the ‘bad blood’ doesn’t continue to wreak havoc through the generations. When John inherited this burden, and discovered the evil twin sister he never knew he had, his story turned into a decades-long struggle between Good and Evil. How can Good triumph, when it is so weak, so powerless in comparison with the monstrous evil that is done?
I still don’t know the answer to that question; so in part this fiction expresses my own wrestling with hope, and faith, and doubt. It reaches some kind of resolution, but I’ll leave it to you to judge how convincing it is. About as convincing as the final victory of Good over Evil, I guess.
But along the way I learned some interesting things about myself, about creativity, and about how I create. Part of the story hinges on the ‘fairy godfathers and godmothers’ who attend John’s christening, grant him gifts and blessings, and help out at key points in the story. To my surprise, two of the godfathers I started out with turned out not to be the right ones, or the ones that were needed later on. Also, I had given away too much about them when they first appeared. So I had to go back, in a partial reworking phase, and both take back what I had given away, and change the identity of the two who were the wrong ones. You may find, if you read carefully, a hint about the identity of one of the original godfathers. Also, that DNA test that would have established beyond doubt the relationship of the twins: I had to think of a workaround there, and I think the workaround turned out to be better than a DNA test would have been. All of this is such fun! It really is as if you set your characters off at the beginning, and find they assume a life of their own, which they then show you, rather than you showing them. It’s almost as if they solve the problems they find themselves in, rather than you having to solve them.
In other ways, this novel is more experimental, more surrealistic, and maybe even more religious, than some of those I’ve written before. I had fun with this, too. And there was a change of title. After having the title Bad Blood all through the writing month, and even when the ‘win’ was registered, when it came to revision that felt too worn-out, and it got changed to Blood Will Out. A phrase which, it turns out, already appeared in the text.
I don’t have any plans to publish it: that all seems too much like hard work. But I would love it if any friends or readers feel like reading it. At 52,000 and some words, it shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours. It’s not like it’s Moby Dick. I’ve put the latest PDF version of it here on Google Drive, and you’re welcome to read it there or download it to your own computer or device. I would love to hear how you get on with it, what you think of it, if you made it to the end or gave up (and why) — in fact any feedback at all.
So, if you have been, thank you for reading!