Sunday, January 18, 2009

Feel The Weight

Work is progressing well on the first draft - I've planned out the final chapters of the novel and began writing them today. If all goes well, the first draft should be in the bag by the end of the month, all 250,000 words of it!!

Although it is a daunting task, I'm actually looking forward to the second draft. It will be more of a re-write as than an edit, but more on that when I get there.

Lately, I've found myself on more than one occasion thinking about holding my novel in its final, published form. Sure, that's the premature ejaculatory equivalent of "You had me at hello" but dreaming is a right we all have, and it's a great feeling. Visualising the cover, feeling the weight of it (a shade lighter than the current word count would reflect) and showing family and friends. It's a great visual target to have in mind and when it happens, it'll be something special.

Something else that is special is the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. I received my final bill last week and although bills over four hundred pounds usually make me want to top myself, this one has got me excited about July. Pundits are already talking about it and it's January! Check out the discussions here at Mark Billingham's forum.

I'd also like to mention how much of a fan I am of The West Wing TV series. I'm only in the middle of Season 2 but I am really enjoying it. Sure it gets a little misty eyed at times and has its fair share of American flag waving, but I find it very interesting and Aaron Sorkin's writing is amazing. Shame he left after the fourth season, but I still have one and a half seasons to go before that happens.

Martin Sheen for President!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dirty Plates, Creased Shirts, and Mince

I was washing the dishes yesterday when the answer suddenly came to me - a solution to a problem I was having with my book. It was a pretty bloody good solution too, if I may say so myself.

I was having issues with the plot; one scene in particular which occurs very close to the end of the book. The scene had to be bloody, nail biting, sneak-a-peek-between-your-fingers type stuff. But it also had to portray a pivotal moment for two of the main characters.

The problem was this: I knew how I arrived at the scene and I knew how I wanted to leave it, but bugger me if I knew what went on in between. I've found you really can box yourself into a corner sometimes, plot wise, and finding a way out can prove difficult.

Anyway, I decided to step away, take a break and let the mind sort out my conundrum while I performed menial household chores like washing the dishes.

And it worked. At the time, I was very, very pleased with the solution that I had come up with.

I finished up the dishes, returned to my computer, and sketched out a rough plan for the scene. Reading back over it, I smiled and deemed it pure gold.

Stepping away from your novel helps a lot, especially if you find yourself in a sticky situation. Sometimes typing your way through it can work, letting the fingers run free, trusting in the magical power of prose that you have at your fingertips. However, more often than not, it can be difficult to arrive at a solution while sitting in front of your computer, staring at the words (or lack thereof) on the screen. Shutting down the computer for an hour and concentrating on something else can do the trick. The subconscious mind is an amazing thing; while you are mopping the floor or completing your tax return (ahem, 31 January people), it can busily and quite happily piece the puzzle together and work out the intricacies of the scene for you. Cue the dishwashing.

Conversely, however, taking time out can kill a scene or idea. This is what happened to me. After jotting down my idea ("pure gold" remember), I headed off to Greenwich to watch some cricket on Sky at a mate's place. On the train ride, I managed to convince myself that the scene, as it played out after my dishwashing session, was not right. It had the wrong feel to it; it was completely out of sync with the feel and tone of the novel. The scene did need to be significant and stand out from the rest, but my idea was too extreme. So I binned it.

Which lead me back to the drawing board and I have just spent the last 45 minutes, sitting in front of my computer, thinking about how the scene could work, and getting no where. If only I could come up with the answer.

I think I'll iron my shirts.

BTW - for those of you who are interested in what my ditched dishwashing inspired scene was all about, it involved a mincer and a severed little finger.

If you are now disappointed that the scene was canned, it's probably a reflection of your good self. But fear not, sick puppies: if ironing the shirts doesn't work, the mincer might find its way back in.