Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Ongoingness

So, number three in a very occasional set of blogposts about the exciting life of an author hovering at the edges of professionalism. We've done The Rejection (boo!) we've done the 'New Start' (huzzah!) now we are on to writing the new thing (ambivalence!) [1]

Writing about this is hard cos I don't want to give much away about The Uncrowned Heir in case you get to read it one day. So I'm going to try and talk about process rather than content which could be really dull.[2] I don't really read many posts about 'how to write X' because then I think 'well, I don't do that' and then I start reading more posts about 'how to write X' and I don't do that either and then I sit here thinking I am doing everything wrong and really if you think about the odds of having any sort of success at all you realise you are quite likely wasting your time and what's the point?[3] Which means I have been entirely derailed from why I am doing this - I'm doing it because I love doing it[4]. So I'm going to stick with what is the best piece of writing advice I have ever been given and it was given to me by the rather wonderful Chaz Brenchley – 'What works for you is the right way of doing it.'

Follows, is what works for me [4a].

Once I knew what I wanted to do I decided to write it and nothing else. That sounds like nothing but it's not because that's the moment I stop being distracted and commit to finishing what I'm on with.

Then for the next week or so I will annoy my wife by being generally distracted and not paying attention to what she's saying[4b] while I daydream through the entire book. I make occasional notes if I REALLY like something but the aim is just to know what I am doing and where it is going. In this case I knew I wanted to write a crime book in a fantasy world, rather than a fantasy book with crime elements. I also focused a bit on my principal characters and how they would interact and what their relationship is but I knew most of this as it's them that excites me and they are the starting point. I'm a people person and people are what it's about.

Then I made a table that had room for thirty chapters, a brief description of what I intended in that chapter, room for notes if I needed to backfill and a final column for whatever it is I had forgotten to make a column for.[5] I also did some sketches of the castle so I had an idea of the geography as it plays an important part in the story[6].

I fill in what I can in my chapterguide thing, this mostly consists of: the end, the beginning and a few milestone moments that need to happen, it'll be maybe half full by the time I start. I don't bother with sub plots or world or other characters as I like to feel that comes organically[7] from the story. I'm still undecided on whether this bit is procrastination or not.

Then I ignore all the notes and guides and maps and stuff and write. I set myself a target of 2000 words a day, Monday to Friday, and nothing at weekends as family and stuff. I don't sit and write solidly I sort of dither about through the day, coming and going and talking to myself like I have 'problems'.[7a] As I said, It took about six weeks in real writing time as I had a break for Christmas and to be really ill in the middle but I ended up at 85'000 words so I outstripped my target by a fair bit and ended up with a first draft that had plenty of good stuff in it.

Once done. I left it for a couple of weeks and wrote some comedy stuff with my friend Chris[8]

And now we are at the bit I struggle the most with. The rewrite to get something that works. The second guessing, the wondering, the not knowing. It's not quite as bad this time as it has been with other stuff and, as I'm reading, I definitely feel what I've done has a real emotional punch to it and I have a hugely likeable main character. But there are problems and the good thing is that I am seeing them[9].

 I think. 

 Or maybe I'm not.

 Or possibly it was right first time and now I'm making it wrongerer.

 I still love doing this.

1. I'm not actually ambivalent about it I am excited but that wouldn't work as a joke.

2. Eh? What? Sorry, I fell asleep thinking about process.

3. ...which inevitably ends at entropy and the heat death of the universe. SO JOLLY.

4. I may have mentioned this before. Not sure.

4a Or doesn't, judging by my success so far.

4b She is watching Celebrity Big Brother at the moment so I kind of wish I'd timed that bit of the process for now.

5. Ascii pictures of badgers that only look like badgers to me.

6. The sketches also serve to make my wife, who is an artist, laugh hysterically. Of course, if she REALLY loved me she'd do it for me but apparently earning money so we can eat is more important than me. Terrible state of affairs.

7. Organically. Really? Organically?

7a This is why I don't sit and write in a cafĂ©. *Telephone rings* 'Hi, MrsRJ? It's me. No, now...listen...no, I don't care what Keith Chegwin said in the house last night. Listen, I've been committed. Yes, again.'

8. Chris really likes process, and order and planning and things like that and will probably murder me at some point in us working together.

9. Ha! Some of them anyway.

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