Any day can be your New Year’s Day – Helen Bridgett

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By Helen Bridgett

In the first of two posts, debut novelist Helen Bridgett, author of The Mercury Travel Club, tells WHW about the processes involved in completing her manuscript. Come back next month to catch up on Part 2: The End is Only the Beginning.

My lead character Angie always starts her New Year’s resolutions on her birthday in February. She reasons that no good decision was ever made after a night of partying and prosecco.

She’s probably right – I’ve certainly never stuck to any resolution I’ve made on January 1st. Mind you, they’ve been fairly dull: give up wine, lose weight, never let a carbohydrate touch my lips ever again. No wonder I couldn’t stick to them, I didn’t actually want to do any of them.

The one thing I’ve always wanted to do was to write a novel. This secret desire sat quietly in the background whilst every other aspect of daily life raged on noisily but it never went away. So two years ago, I made this my single resolution; I would write a novel and give it to my sister as a Christmas present.

Making a pledge that I’d give it as a gift was significant because a) I had a deadline and b) I had to do my very best to make it an entertaining read.

Being a very methodical person I worked out that I’d have to write around 600 words per day to have it finished in time. That didn’t sound too onerous but predictably by the end of February I’d only managed 1500 words. It looked as if this resolution was going the same way as every other one.

There was a difference this time; I was disappointed in myself. This was something I really wanted to achieve – I mean really wanted. I knew that if I looked back on the year and I hadn’t done it, I’d be truly gutted. ‘You can’t commit to 600 words a day? Come off it girl’, I told myself.

I buckled down every day; some days flowed and I wrote far more than I needed and some days I struggled. I kept going and by May I had 35,000 words. 35,000 !!!! That’s nearly half way there!

I won’t pretend every day was easy. One some mornings I would sit at my laptop and delete everything I’d written the previous day. Your characters start to tell you what they want to do next, how they’re going to behave and if you try to write something that won’t suit them they keep you awake at night.

On I plodded (truly loving the process by now) and then one evening I reached 81,000 words. I had one scene left to write and I knew exactly what it was. Rather than hurrying it, I stopped writing and saved the finale for the following day.

Even now, I still recall the joy and excitement of knowing that I was about to sit down and finish my debut novel. I’m fizzing with the memory as I write this. Slowly I opened the manuscript and took my time. I thanked my characters for being such great fun and I opened a bottle of bubbly. I’d done it.

P.S. Always remember to save your work daily. I email myself a copy of the day’s writing so that even if my PC crashes I haven’t lost my work. I can’t think of anything more heartbreaking than losing everything I’d written.

Helen Bridgett has always loved books and always loved writing. One year she decided her New Year’s resolution would be “Write a novel to give as a Christmas present”. She spent the year writing and The Mercury Travel Club was born. Helen hails from the North East but now lives in Manchester with her Husband and their Chocolate Labrador Angus. When not writing, Helen can usually be found walking or drinking wine – not usually at the same time. Helen is currently working on the sequel to The Mercury Travel Club.

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