A writing update

Posted by on May 1st, 2012

I know! It surprises me as much as anyone, but I thought I’d take a break from ranting (where would you begin at the moment?) and do an update on writing-related news, especially as that is ostensibly what the site is for.

I’m up for two awards, which is really nice. The first is the Dagger in the Library. I’m longlisted for that, and you can see the full list here. It’s a nice award, as it’s for a body of work rather than a specific novel, and while I’ve never thought of myself as having a body of work, I suppose it’s getting to the point where I do. The shortlist will be announced at CrimeFest later this month, more on which shortly. Now, in fact, because the second award I’m up for is the eDunnit award, and the actual winner will be announced at CrimeFest too. The full shortlist is available here.

In both cases, I’m really pleased (obviously). I tend to think the most important thing about an award is its shortlist, and in both cases I’m amongst stellar company. (I know the Dagger is a longlist, but even so). In the case of the eDunnit award, I look not only at the shortlist itself, but the submitted books that didn’t make it, and feel amazingly lucky.

Speaking of CrimeFest, I’ll be there, moderating two panels, on the 26th and 27th May. The full programme is up here. Leaving me entirely out of it, I think it’s the best line-up they’ve ever had, and I’m really looking forward to it. Both of those things are also true with regard to the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate in July. The full programme is now online here, and it’s very exciting. I’m doing a panel on ebooks on the Friday afternoon. In the case of both festivals, I’ll be around for the whole thing, so if you see me, say hi. If you want to, I mean…

Actual writing news: I’ve now finished the proof pages of Dark Room, which should hopefully be out in time for Harrogate. As is usually the case at this stage, I have no real idea how I feel about it. By this point, I’ve read the thing so many times that all I see are the mistakes and sections I’m less happy with, but that’s par for the course and nothing to worry about in itself. Initial feedback from people with a fresh eye on the material has been good, and overall I’m fairly happy – I think – with the way it turned out. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I’m working on the next one – Book Eight! You see: body of work! – which is provisionally titled Hell. It’s slow-going. My approach has been the same as with Dark Room: initial planning; three months for the first draft (average 1k words a day and you’re there); another three months to write the book again properly. I’m one month into the first draft and have about 25k, but it’s rough and not really working. I’m not feeling it. But as with the proofs, this is fairly normal. One on the benefits of this approach is I treat the first draft basically as an extended planning session, and it’s usually only when that’s done that I figure out what the book should actually be. So I’m not worried. I’ll just press on, writing the bits that interest me, looking for hooks and ideas, fleshing out the characters or seeing how they flesh themselves out, and so on. It’s a little like assembling rough, on-the-hoof footage of an idea with your mates before you develop a full script with stage directions and get the right actors to serve it. Or something. Something like that.

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7 Responses to “A writing update”

  1. Ramsey Campbell Says:

    Hurrah for DARK ROOM! My order’s in. And good luck with the work in progress! I’m just rereading the first draft of my new novel before I get to the rewrite and by gum, there’s a lot of crap in there.

  2. stevemosby Says:

    Thanks, Ramsey! It’s always the same for me, like I say – always a struggle. I always figure I need to have the crap writing days to get to the good ones. If I don’t have the crap day, and work through it, it’ll just be waiting there for me the day after instead. A pain.

    But still – good to hear it’s the same for successful writers that have been around for as long as you. Well, I say “good”. Maybe it would be better to know it got easier… 🙂

  3. JKTrowling Says:

    I wonder about this. Why are there good days and bad days? Why is it you can practice something over and over and over again till your skillz are, as they say, mad, but then wake up one day and find that they have utterly deserted you. Where the hell’s the evolutionary advantage in that?

  4. Ramsey Campbell Says:

    I’d say because unless you’re repeating yourself every new scene gives you a new set of problems. I do find that some of the days that felt effortful turn out to have produced work that looks fluent, whereas the apparently fluent stuff isn’t that good in retrospect. It depends how much you work by instinct, perhaps – it sounds as if you do, Steve.

  5. JKTrowling Says:

    Each day is different and I can see how some problems might be less amenable to the instinctive approach, or how something that you thought would be easy turns out to be a pig. It’s definitely worwhile grinding through. If we only passed through open doors, we’d soon find ourselves stuck, metaphorically, in McDonalds. That’s one type of situation.

    The other is where you are genuinely doing something by rote and some days you are crap, other days you aren’t and yet other days are a complete write-off. I’m not just thinking of writing, though it happens there, I’m thinking of a whole spectrum of actions from the brutely physical all the way through to the more abstract mental preoccupations. e.g.s from my own experience would include: programming, climbing, playing musical instruments, writing, simple recall, maths. Hell, even getting ready for work in the morning can give me problems.

    Why are some days just one of those days?

    Maybe there’s something in astrology after all.

  6. stevemosby Says:

    On a writing level, I can think of a few different reasons why I have bad days. The first is that I’ll often lack confidence in the project as a whole, which makes the effort of sitting down and writing feel purposeless and pointless. And until you gain a burst of forward momentum and positivity, you just have to grit your teeth. The second is more focused: I often don’t know what I want to happen, or what a scene’s going to be, and so I have to write my way into it. It’s hard when you don’t know what your first line or paragraph is, and it can feel stiff and wrong and stupid as you try to figure it out. Again, that’s something you write your way through, gradually filling out the scene here and there until it makes sense, but it doesn’t fill you with confidence while you’re doing it even though it’s the only way to do it.

    Finally, and this applies to stuff other than writing too, sometimes my brain just isn’t in gear at all. A lot of days, I find it a struggle to follow an article from beginning to end, so holding a plot in my head is bloody impossible. Some days, your heart’s just not in it. And ‘it’ could be anything. Some days, some unidentifiable but integral psychological part of you just can’t be arsed getting out of bed.

  7. Ramsey Campbell Says:

    I have to say I’m taking great delight in cutting about thirty per cent of the wordage from the first draft of THE KIND FOLK.

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