When I write something new, I must say I just sort of launch into it; maybe the ideas have been brewing for some time, months, years even, but there is that moment which after dithering on the edge, like a swimmer not sure whether to dive or jump in, suddenly without much thought, I take a leap. The resolute swimmer might go into the water head first, feet first, or bottom first, but in they go and then they start swimming; maybe it’s too cold and they come back out straight away – as the writer might leave their writing if they don’t feel comfortable with it – or maybe the water is too warm and swimming around in its turgid waves is unsatisfactory – there have been plenty of times when I’ve started writing and it is indeed ‘turgid’ and so I abandon the words… maybe they dry up… maybe they just sit festering, or maybe they are refreshed and next time I plunge there is something worth plunging into.
Every so often the plunge – a dive into water or into a narrative, is exciting and the swimmer or writer feels strong and confident and ploughs on, length after length, page after page, maybe hardly coming up for air! The style can be sorted out later, it can be refined and perfected, but in that initial burst of enthusiasm and energy there is hardly any stopping.
I’ve mentioned before that for some reason I don’t like lists or checklists – silly really, because on a practical level I can go shopping and come back with things I don’t need and have forgotten some things we have run out of – and in writing maybe I would save my time and reduce the burden of editing if I tried to analyse what I’ve written using a check list. The silly thing it, when I was teaching, I used to suggest this very thing!
here is the list I used to give my students – probably in the right order!
- Extras/bits and pieces
So if, for example I was checking through my next Radwinter story, which isn’t quite finished I might make these notes:
- Events/actions – Thomas, the main character, is commissioned to research the events which followed the death of a school girl in 1930, to find out whether a hotel is haunted, to discover the identity of a young woman with amnesia; this is against the background of the domestic activities of his family
- Reason/motive/purpose – Thomas to solve his mysteries, the difficulties with some of his family to be resolved
- Trigger/prompt – the commission, and the arrival of a new relative – virtually dumped on his doorstep
- Extras/bits and pieces – descriptions, background details, extraneous incidents for light relief/humour
- Complication/obstacles – the fact that nearly ninety years have elapsed since the school girl was murdered, there is a conspiracy to prevent Thomas from finding the truth about the hotel and the linked identity of the amnesiac young woman, bereavement and mental health issues affecting a member of his family
- Climax – without giving anything away, there is a climax where very old chickens come home to roost, and incidents from Thomas’s own childhood resonate in the present
- Solution/resolution – still feeling my way on this one – but it might involve smuggling, blackmail, and a mass murderer revealed… yes really!
I’m not sure when this next novel will be finished, I’m still trying to promote my recently published story, Lucky Portbraddon, which you can find here: