Novel #1 is out in the ether looking for a publisher to adopt it as their own. It’s a fascinating process, in part because each little piece of feedback (aka rejection) gives you another insight into the process and into the minds and priorities of editors and publishers.
Letting go of Novel #1 has been tricky. I’m like a mother whose daughter has finally left home and, after years of arguments, I find that I miss her.
Pushing the metaphor a bit further, I guess I’m now pregnant with Novel #2. My plan was to tell you all about my process for starting something new. But it turns out I did this a few months ago (told you it was hard to leave one book behind and start the next). Here’s what I said:
I’ve been thinking about [it], dreaming a little, writing down little snatches of dialogue that as-yet-unnamed characters will say, mulling what each of them is really about. I like the looseness of the early stages of writing: finding pictures, pieces of music, historical reference, words, phrases, images and letting them come together in a slightly chaotic crowd. Then I’ll pick my way through them, seeing how they join together, drawing lines between one thing and another. The culmination of that is to get a piece of flip chart paper and draw lots of circles, arrows, stars, squares with words to describe key scenes, moments of character, moments of plot and a kind of sequence for the whole thing. By the time I sit down to start writing, I know broadly what will happen – though not every step along the way – and I could start to write at any point in the book (which is helpful if you start to get bogged down at the beginning of chapter 3).
The good news is: that’s what’s happened. It has taken a lot of mulling, dreaming, procrastinating, ignoring, scribbling, googling and wine, but I’ve now reached the flip chart paper stage. I need a few more arrows, a bit more clarity on major plot points and when they fit together, and to make some tough decisions about exactly how much angst, pain and tragedy I can heap on the next set of unsuspecting characters, but it’s definitely coming together. The one thing I haven’t allowed myself to do is worry about it. If you stare at the blank sheet of paper and feel anything like anxiety, then it’s never going to happen. Better to distract yourself with research, character development, jotting down idiosyncractic details (in this instance, I’ve learned a lot about Scandinavian folklore and I reckon I’d now be quite good at fishing) and generally just letting the world of the book build up around you. And if you’re still stuck, listen to some music: Sibelius’s 2nd Symphony, 4th Movement was my latest discovery and possibly the most dramatic piece of music you can imagine as your soundtrack.
I’ll keep you posted as things progress. In terms of timing: I’d love to have the first draft of this one blurted out into my computer before Christmas (all the dreaming about it makes the writing very quick…). And I’ll have comics news very soon for you too 🙂