Elaine Forrestal

Beginnings

Mr Snell’s Coach leaving Coolgardie c1894

Unlike endings, which need to have a satisfying shape to them and a sense of completion, beginnings can be anything you want them to be. Short, sharp, dynamic. Mysterious, intriguing, slowly unfolding with cunning twists and turns. One thing they can not be, however, is boring. A good beginning has a hook. Perhaps, like a fisherman’s fly, the hook will be concealed. The reader will be kept guessing at first, wondering about characters, setting, plot. Gradually, one step at a time, more details will be revealed. By then, hopefully, your reader will have begun to care about the main character and will keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.

True to form, the beginning of my new goldfields story, Life Blood, is into its third major rewrite. I do have a reputation for having to loose the first two or three Chapters of my manuscripts. It seems to take me that long to ‘write myself in’ to the story proper. The central character is always my main focus, but I have to keep feeling my way, trying out different beginnings, until I am confident that I can carry my readers along with me into the heart of the story. I have to get rid of a lot of extraneous matter which seems to fit, at first, but ends up getting in the way. Obviously with a real person like Clara Saunders there is a lot more to her story than I can tell successfully in one book. I have chosen to tell about her first adventures as a fourteen year old, initially one of only two females, on the new gold diggings at what would become Coolgardie. She went on to became a pioneering woman who helped establish Western civilisation in at least three different outback locations in Western Australia. But the adventures she had in those formative years are the ones I have focused on for now. Having so much material to draw on from the ‘Memories’ she wrote down in her exercise book has presented me with some difficult choices. But I must say I have loved every minute of it. Clara is such a strong interesting character. A woman of the late 19th century, but well ahead of her time.

I’m looking forward to introducing her to all of you.