I’ve been quiet recently. (Well, quiet on here anyway; still twittering like a mad person). This is because I’ve been working. I’m a slow writer, and you’ll probably have noticed that I don’t usually manage to get a book out every year. In the past, this has been as much down to publishing windows as anything else, as it does normally take me about a year from starting to finishing a book, even if my deadline-aim is often a little sketchy. I’ve been guilty of seeing deadlines as targets rather than limits, and I often over-shoot. Quiet at the back.
Anyway, Black Flowers came out in April, and I signed a new two-book deal with Orion a couple of months beforehand. The problem with that was – again – publishing windows. If I want a 2012 release for the next book, it needs to be delivered in September this year. Much after that, I’ll be looking at skipping another year again, and I don’t want to do that. So – perhaps foolishly – I said I’d do the next book, from start to finish, in six months. (And also because fuck it, you know? Why not).
It’s nowhere near finished yet, but it’s been an interesting experience so far. While I’ve never had a writing routine as such, I’ve always favoured the lazy approach: writing when I feel like it, not writing when I don’t; letting scenes and ideas percolate slowly; playing lots of Playstation as “meditation”; blah blah blah.
But this has been much more full on. March, April and May, I wrote a first draft. I did about 1500 words a day, not worrying at all about the quality of the prose or the gaping plot holes: just constantly pressing forward. And it worked – kind of. I ended up with a first draft. I mean, it’s a shit first draft, but that’s nothing to worry about because they always are. That’s their reason for being. A first draft that isn’t shit is punching above its weight and over-cocky. So that’s fine.
June, July and August are about putting the whole thing together: cutting at least a third of it, rewriting everything else; writing more; rearranging it. The idea being that completing the first draft gives you an idea of what you should have written all along. I’m basically following my usual procedure, but massively condensing it.
And it turns out (I’ve edited about 30k of an existing 90+ so far) that the prose hasn’t suffered too badly. A lot of it’s slightly ‘the cat sat on the mat’, but that’s to be expected, and there’s some okay imagery in there too. The plot hangs together, even if its not taut enough yet. The stuff I figured out about the main characters by the end is surprisingly well foreshadowed, given I didn’t know any of it at the time. There are some decent set-pieces, a few nice scenes, a couple of twists. It’s deceptively easy-going, but increasingly vicious and sinks gradually into actually-not-at-all-lighthearted-fuck-this-shit territory.
There’s a lot of work still to do. A lot. But it helps that I’m not trying to do anything structurally complex like Black Flowers or 50/50 Killer this time out. On the surface, it’s a lot more straightforward, and the real challenge is getting the themes right, the emotional undercurrent rolling along at the right speed, and making the detective work satisfying.
Anyway – the provisional title is Dark Room. That might change. You can read the synopsis here. That might change too. If anything I cut seems interesting enough, I might post it up here for shits and giggles. In the meantime, thanks for all the nice messages about Black Flowers, thanks to everyone who voted for Still Bleeding on the Theakstons longlist, and I hope you’re all very, very well.