New Book, New Writing

Two years can disappear as fast as water rushing down a plug hole when you’re immersed in a writing project. That is an excuse, not an explanation, for my absence here. Now that my writing project is finished and my transition to full-time writer is complete I’m excited about renewing my presence here.

The social history project mentioned in my previous post back in 2015 has come to an end and the book, Down at the Baths is about to be launched next week. I’ll post a sneak preview of the cover here and more details about it will follow shortly.

cover

New projects are lined up and my writing life is looking exciting – to me anyway. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you

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Writing the Book is Only Part of the Story

I’ve allowed myself three years to write the story of the local swimming pool I frequented as a teenager. I didn’t realize how many new skills I’d need along the way. I’m a writer and this is a story I want to tell. I thought I’d research and write and produce a book. Wrong! The reality is this book is taking me on an amazing learning journey.

My book is a local history one, a social history, the story of the local Municipal Baths from 1917 until closure in 1966.That sounds easy, gathering up information and writing. But there’s more to a book than that, as many of you wiser than me already know. I feel as if I’m undertaking a personal three year on-going education course – and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

Of course, there’s the research. This is new for me and I’m already learning rapidly. The people at my local library are amazing, showing me where to locate information and how to access it. The old newspapers are giving me an insight into community reaction to the building of the baths in their town. The Archives contain lots of valuable data. I’ve been recording my own anecdotal stories and will soon be delving into stories from people who experienced the baths long before I did.

The research will continue for a long time yet. I hadn’t ventured too far into the project when I realized I needed to put this story into context. What was the local community like at the time, especially in the 1920s and 1930s? I’m off to the library and onto the internet, gathering stories of the local community and the swimming world of the time.

All this sounds fine, but the book needs to written in a style appealing to a wide readership. I hope to blend facts with my personal stories. This will involve a different style from  my writing so far. I enrolled in an online Creative Non- fiction writing course and this is proving a wise investment of time and money. I’ve been reading a book about undertaking research. I’m also reading books, both novels and factual, which weave backwards and forwards in time, rather than tell a chronological story. I’m getting a feel for how my book will be written.

I’m now six months into my project. My writing skills are improving, I’m getting more skilled at research and I’m becoming e of a social and local historian. Who said writing a book was easy? But I can tell you from personal experience, learning as you go is lots of fun.

One Mistake is One Too Many – Check Your Facts

In my recent 1950s school memoir, I made a small mistake. But even one small mistake is one too many. This mistake involved a date only one person would notice. I wrote a year date incorrectly, giving one person longer at school than the average person. Most people wouldn’t pick up the error, but my brother did. He wasn’t impressed.

A quick phone call during the writing, to check with him when he left school, would have eliminated the error. I chose to think I could work it out for myself. That choice, while not too harmful, was a bad choice.

One thing I’m learning, as my writing turns more toward creative non-fiction, is the need to get my facts right. Simple phrases, while seeming to add my personal touch to the story, often need to be altered. For example, I recently started a sentence in my work in progress on the trees of my district, “Since the beginning of time ……”

Whoa! I can’t write that. How do I know the trees of the once magnificent forest had been there since the beginning of time? I don’t and neither does anyone else. The realisation enabled me to change the whole paragraph and, I believe, give me a far better piece of writing.

Writing creative non-fiction is a new venture for me and is proving a fascinating challenge. I can’t make anything up, but I’m enjoying telling a story my own way. I’m enjoying the research involved, even for such a short piece as 1000 words, such as the tree piece I’m working on.

At the moment I’m reading and researching more than I’m writing, all for the sake of 1000 words. This is definitely proving to be worthwhile. The facts need to be right. I’m not a historian. A reader out there is bound to have more expertise than I do.

The message then is to verify all the facts, make sure they are the truth. The way I’ll choose to write the story is slowly taking shape in my mind. But I need to remember, one mistake is one too many – I need to check my facts.

Writing Memoir Combined with Local History

My first published writing project, a 1950s school memoir, has proved a success and left me wanting to stretch myself further. At first I thought I’d work on another memoir, one set in a place close to my heart when I was growing up.

Competitive swimming occupied my teenage years in the 1960s and my time spent in intensive training coincided with the last five years of the local community baths, before a new impressive swimming complex was built and opened. The old baths became like a second home to me and I wanted to write the story of its last years.

The school Centenary I attended in the weekend brought me in contact again with two swimmers from those teenage years and, as one does at a school reunion, we got talking and sharing stories, not just of the old baths but of swimming in our small province. I didn’t realise at the time, but our conversation became a turning point. A new idea crept into my head, planted itself and started the life of a new book.

Next day I shared the swimming conversation with my husband, also a swimmer from the same period. It became obvious a larger story needed telling. I now need to stretch my writing skills and try something a little more challenging.

The story of the old Municipal Baths in my town needs to be told. The baths first opened in 1917 and lasted just short of fifty years before the new swimming complex was opened in 1966. 2016 will mark fifty years since the closure of the special place in my heart.

The baths story will be told through a combination of local history and memoir. My own life story will be intermingled with the life story of this very popular meeting place for the young people of the town. Three years to research, write and produce this story should be more than enough.

I’m quite excited at the prospect of extending myself. I’m hoping my idea of combining the story of my connection with the baths in the last five years along with the wider community story of the baths through its short life will work.

I know challenges lie ahead of me, especially the extensive research needed. I’m looking forward to sharing my story here, both snippets of my life stories and the things I learn about writing along the way. If any readers have attempted this combination of writing memoir and local history before I’d love to learn about your experience.