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Called to Account

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Fully 18 months ago I gave an update on my famine project, which consists of two slim volumes. The first was A Purgatory of Misery and the second The Poor Law Inspector. In that post I indicated that the initial draft of the first, an entirely non-fictional account of the events in British and Irish history that led up to the famine, was complete and that I was then embarking on the second, a fictionalised account of the work of Captain Arthur Kennedy in West Clare between late 1847 and mid 1850.

A Purgatory of Misery was published at the end of 2017 but work on The Poor Law Inspector stuttered on and off throughout last year. I finally reached the end last month and passed it to a first reader. At only 50,000 words it is a novella, rather than the full length novel I had hoped to create. That it is so short after such a long time is down to several factors, the main one being the difficulty of presenting the real horror of conditions in that place and time in a way that is not too depressing to read.

Suggested cover – please tell me what you think.

The opening chapters were posted to Chapter Buzz at the end of 2017. The book now has a new title, Called to Account, which relates to the fact that Kennedy and the man who came to be his arch rival were involved, in 1851, in a court case as a consequence of an insult delivered in public by Kennedy to the other, who then sued him for libel. I have now structured the book around the court case and Kennedy’s recollections of significant events in his life up to that point.

Once again, it is being posted on Chapter Buzz whilst I work on revisions, including those suggested by my first reader. Follow this link to find it. Your comments and suggestions are most welcome. You can post them there or here.

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8 Comments

  1. If 50k words is the natural length then so be it; at that length though, it’s still quite a substantial novella, and no doubt the writing will stand on its own merits regardless of however long you wanted it to be. I hope it does well, and will take a look when it’s out.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “That it is so short after such a long time is down to several factors, the main one being the difficulty of presenting the real horror of conditions in that place and time in a way that is not too depressing to read.”

    ~ Frank, while working on my long short story (8000 words) about the Jonestown Massacre in Guyana (November 1978), I spent eight months in a very dark place. I had resisted returning to such a place and time, but a strong sense of my birthplace’s role in that horror had haunted me for months.
    ~ As writers, we are sometimes called upon to spend time in a horrific place and time. As citizens in a world that’s once again facing dark times of mass migrations of people facing hunger and violence, your proposed novel has much to teach us. Your responsibility as a writer is to take readers to a dark place, submerge us in that world, and engage us with the strength, courage, and triumph of the individuals trapped in the darkness. In real life, we don’t always win in our struggles against injustice and oppression. It’s our strength and resilience that counts.

    I look forward to reading your novella 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • franklparker says:

      Thank you, Rosaliene. That is exactly what I hope to achieve. I fear, however, that we never do learn from history. Watching the African flooding disaster on TV last night I could not help but think about the journalists and politicians who toured Ireland, presented reports calling attention to the situation, but the government of the day, perhaps because it was preoccupied with other concerns, failed to act. At least today with have the UN and other NGOs to intervene and some governments have aid budgets they can draw upon.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Phil Huston says:

    First, nobody said a novel is 80k or better except people who write 80k or better. Elmore Leonard’s “The Switch” clocks in at barely 45k and is all it needs to be, a modern (1976) take on “Lucky Jim” country club bashing. While several others hit 74 and 75k there comes a point (I call it the PD James/Colin Dexter point) where a lot of what builds word count is unrelated soap opera character nonsense and set decorating. “Tishomingo Blues” is 75k and I could have gotten through the story with 20k less Civil War reenactment and still no missed a lick of flavor. There’s that old story about all you can eat for $2.99 but a dollar’s worth is all you can stand. Consider that if your story packs a punch for its size Hemingway is on your side. Clean and concise never hurt anybody. In fact many would do well to follow your lead. If it tells the story in the space, run with it. Nobody told Leonard or Amis 45k wasn;t a novel. Don;t tell yourself it isn’t.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Frank, What a process you’ve been through with this one. I wouldn’t get all worked up about it being only novella length. The sunflower is beautiful, but so is the violet. Looking forward to reading it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. franklparker says:

    Thank you Donna and Phil for your encouragement! If I am honest, it is not so much length, per se, that I am concerned about but a feeling that maybe I have not given my main character enough depth. That is what I am working at now. The book I am currently reading, Bel Canto, is full of characters who have great depth but the action is set in a place where literally nothing much is happening, except the various characters getting to know each other. It seems to me that as writers we have to strike a balance between describing events and the characters’ responses to those events. The latter requires the inclusion of just enough material to establish what makes the characters who they are and how they are changed by the events. For me, Bel Canto, has too much of that and not enough of the other. I fear my book, in its present iteration has too much of the former and not enough of the latter.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Phil Huston says:

    We know who the characters are by what they say contextually. A little is enough. Too much and as you discovered if the reader doesn’t have to invest in the character due to over exposure what have you gained with word count? Boredom. I see a couple of pages of text blocks I start skimming for dialogue or action vocabulary.

    Liked by 1 person

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