Monday, November 17, 2014

Starting Out

My last post was about finishing a book. Now, after a respectful pause and a wonderful holiday in Turkey, my mind has turned to the new one. The idea has been tugging at my sleeve for months now, like a kid getting impatient because his mother is talking to someone else and ignoring him. Now at last I feel I’m ready to give it my full attention.

But I’m nor going to indulge it, allowing it to frolic about all over the place. It’s time to talk tough. One of the best pieces of advice for a writer when it comes to plot is ‘Make it then try to break it ,’ so I’m doing what they call a ‘due diligence’ check in legal circles.

I’ve got to be absolutely sure that it’s complex enough  to carry the weight of a whole book. An untested inspiration will collapse in a dispiriting way – around chapter five, usually, once the initial impetus has faded. That's a lot of time wasted.

It’s particularly important for a writer like me because I never have a book plan that’s set in stone. I think I know what's going to happen at the end but more often than not I’m wrong. I like it that way; if the twists and turns fool me I think they will probably fool my readers as well. And I’m in good company on this – Ruth Rendell doesn’t choose her murderer until quite near the end on the theory that if she doesn’t know who did it, the reader can’t guess.

As a result, it gets a bit tense in the middle there when I’m not absolutely clear about the next step and the old four-in-the-morning, it’s-useless-and-so-am-I routine starts. I have learnt to say firmly, ‘Trust the story. Now shut up and go to sleep.’ And it works; the story has always drawn me along, until things start falling into place.

So at the moment I’m testing it to destruction. There’s been some superficial damage, but so far the central structure seems sound. Fingers crossed!

1 comment:

Ban Crows said...

As a reader, one often wonders if other readers feel the same way about a book, a series or a continuing character.

To me, Shades of Death was by far the best of the standalone novels, perhaps because the main character was a hero, in the old sense of the word. DS Ward deserved better than to be sent off into the sunset, and should return.

The DS Fleming books are eminently readable, but what annoys on occasion is Fleming's soap-operatic private life.

Crime is committed. Crime is solved by detectives. Loose ends are tied. The end.

This was largely the case with the early novels, but is not now, to the detriment of the Fleming series.

No doubt there are many who are extremely interested in the private lives of Marjory and her extended family, but perhaps every second novel could simply deal with the crime, for those who would run a mile rather than watch an episode of EastEnders or Neighbours.