As a young child, L.S. Harvey was displeased to find that her furious efforts towards putting pen to paper resulted in “a page or two” instead of fully fleshed out books. Today, she’s working on a full-length novel, The Puppet Show.
Harvey has adored reading for as long as she can remember, often finding herself in awe of a good story. At eleven years of age, she began consuming literature with an analytical perspective for the first time while reading Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful. “I think the ability to appreciate literature in a truly sophisticated sense is something that comes with age,” she says, adding, “However, I do believe that for some, including myself, the love of literature can be innate.” Her dive into Morpurgo’s work was the first time that she explored the historical and social context of a book—a process she’d refine and repeat again and again as her appreciation for literature matured.
Proving more than a childhood fascination, Harvey’s love for the written word took her to Southampton University, where she studied English literature before graduating this past spring. Her time at university solidified her passion for writing and provided her with the confidence to pursue it wholeheartedly. She explains, “Before university, the only people to ever really judge something I’d written would be friends or family—people with biases. They may have told me my writing was good, but I often doubted it, assuming they either knew nothing about writing themselves or were just being nice.” Receiving encouragement and feedback from her professors, some of them published authors themselves, motivated Harvey and convinced her that she could excel in her writing pursuits.
When she’s not working on her long term novel project, The Puppet Show, Harvey gives her time to writing short stories. During her second year of university she fell in love with the form of the short story. “I became hooked on the idea that, due to their nature, I could write a short story in a few days and then give my readers a finished product,” she says. Harvey is a big believer that pace is the most crucial element in short story writing. She says, “Within the short story, pace and timing is everything—you have to do what the novelist does, but in only a fraction of the length of a novel.” Although many writers argue that the ending is the most important part of a short story, Harvey contends that bad stories are the result of poor build up and pace rather than lousy endings themselves. “Poor pacing may leave the reader feeling as though your characters have fallen flat or that you have rushed and skimmed integral parts of the plot,” she says.
Harvey started working on her novel before she attended university. Her studies initially put the project on the back burner, but she started working on it again about a year ago. “This picking back up of the book was helped by the motivation I received from my lecturers…along with being surrounded by peers at university who were writers too,” she explains. A recent trip to Budapest has also energized her, especially so because her novel is set in eastern Europe. “The city completely inspired me and anchored my novel,” says Harvey.
As far as her writing process goes, Harvey insists that her workspace be tidy. “I cannot deal with clutter around me whilst I write,” she says, adding that people have joked that her desk is so clean a surgery could be performed upon it. When Harvey gets her writing ideas, she never starts putting them on paper right away. “Usually the idea simmers around in my brain for a while. During this time, characters, settings, and possible plot designs begin to form in my head. Eventually, it comes to a point where there is nothing I can do but write the story—it’s practically bursting out of me,” she explains.
Harvey also almost always listens to music while she writes. She says, “When I write I visualise the story almost as a film in my head. Film scenes, particularly those that are emotionally charged, are often accompanied with music. Therefore, I tend to listen to songs that help move the scene along in my head as I write.” When she sits down to write, she uses Microsoft Word, but if an idea springs to mind while she’s out and about, she jots down a note on her phone. Recently, she ran into an issue with the plot of The Puppet Show. “To resolve this I tore up squares of paper and wrote the events of the plot down. I then spent hours arranging the scrap bits of paper into a timeline spread all over my bedroom carpet,” she says. Physically moving the pieces around really helped her organize the story.
Being an aspiring writer, Harvey is not unaffected by the self-doubt that accompanies the inner thoughts of most striving creatives. But, a balanced perspective keeps her going. “The truth is, creative writing is subjective and you must understand that not everybody is going to like everything you write, regardless of how good a writer you are,” she says. Harvey suggests sharing your work with whoever you’re most comfortable with. Whether it’s easier to share your writing with a close friend or a total stranger, make sure that other eyes see your work. Harvey also knows the importance of getting the story out onto paper without judging it. She says, “Editing is important but don’t become so obsessed with getting your writing perfect that you spend more time editing the first page of your work, than you do actually getting on with writing it. Ignore the self-doubts and criticism—deal with that later; just write it first.”
L.S. Harvey has taken her childhood love of stories and channelled it into a passionate pursuit. You can go to her website and read her short stories and follow her journey on Instagram @l.s.harvey.