work in progress

Posted by on June 24th, 2011

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.

This entry was posted on Friday, June 24th, 2011 at 9:27 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


6 Responses to “work in progress”

  1. Suw Says:

    I’m always in awe of writers who can produce a book a year, but I guess, like anything, you can train yourself to do it. The heads-down-until-the-first-draft-is-done is the only way I can do it, because if I stop to think too hard I lose all momentum and faith in my own ability. That said, Argleton interrupted the Books of Hay, so that’s going to be interesting to pick up again after not reading it for a year.

    Fingers crossed you keep to your schedule, though I’m sure you will. If you need any egging on, I am always happy to berate you on Twitter.

  2. Ricky Says:

    Synopsis makes it sound pretty cool.
    Would you never return to characters from previous books?

  3. Mike Cane Says:

    >>>still twittering like a mad person

    Stop that.


  4. JKTrowling Says:

    unless you plan to tweet the whole novel.

  5. stevemosby Says:

    Ach – if I was tweeting the novel it would be done now…

    Ricky – probably not. Never say never, and all, and I’ve contemplated returning to the characters from 50/50 Killer a couple of times, but it’s never felt right. The story I’m thinking of always works better with a new character instead. But never say never. It’s possible that the main guy in the next one could be a series character, but I’m not sure. We’ll see. It would make a lot of commercial sense, but – so far – that’s been the only kind of sense it would make.

  6. Ricky Says:

    Yeah, there is still life in 50/50 Killer characters although Dave from Cry For Help was pretty cool too.
    I’m sure you could deliver a brilliant series character and they do seem to be the popular choice although loads of them get to the stage where every book is the same. Stephen Leather once made the point that fans of these type of books actually want them to be predictable and I’d agree with that,up to a point.

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