The biggest challenge of writing a timeslip novel, or dual narrative, for me, is of course the length. I tend to “write long” anyway – the bulk of my work when I move from a first to a second draft, is cutting words. In a dual narrative I’m telling two stories so there’s even more scope to explore my characters and events in more depth than makes for a sensible wordcount! On the other hand, I found as I worked on The Hourglass, that events in one storyline would illuminate themes in the other and vice versa, so this helped to make it concise. I also found that questions posed by characters in one storyline, eg, “is it ever too late to find real love?” were answered conclusively in the other.
There was a sort of magical process at work where the two storylines bounced off one another and complimented each other. There was a little bit of trickiness structure-wise if I needed to cut out a chapter and then the pattern of chapters alternating between the 1950s and the present day was out of kilter, but this was quite easy to address by cutting a chapter from the other story too, or by running two short chapters together. There’s always a solution!
Overall, I really enjoy writing dual narrative because it’s less intense and more varied than writing a single narrative – it made me feel as if I was working on two books at once!
Tracy Rees’ book The Hourglass is out in paperback on 4th May