I’ve beed hard at work on my next book (now entitled ‘The Collector’) and have reached one of those points where I need to take a break and think about where the story goes from here. It has reached 26,000 words so there’s a long way to go but I have managed to do 14,000 words in 4 days so progress is good. I drafted out the plot last year but have reached that point that all writers will be familiar with: is it good enough? is it what I intended? Here are my self-doubts.
Will it be too short? I know I’ve said that size doesn’t matter but much less than 60,000 words is considered to be a bit skinny unless you’re Ian McEwan. Maybe it will be a novella. The last third of the story has a lot of action and these tracts tend to be quite punchy and brief, in my experience. I think it needs even more political intrigue and will add some. I worry that it’s too light, Flight Into Darkness is the world of international terrorism and preventing WW3. This one is about treasures looted from the Baghdad museums and the jeopardy is far less, although retired Irish sectarian terrorists are involved. It needs to be edgy; less isn’t always more. It’s a much smaller story largely set on one of the Hebrides islands but ending up in Switzerland. Next, I worry that it might be considered ‘young adult’ stuff, like Biggles. If so, then so be it, but it’s not what I intended. Maybe I need to make it a bit grittier.
These anxieties are normal in writing, it seems. I’ve always had them. I’ve done enough of it to know that, no matter how good I think it is, my editor, Debi Alper, will take her red pen and tell me what works but, more importantly, what doesn’t.
Normally I work on chapters individually, keeping them as separate files, then produce a consolidated MS at the end. This time, I’ve decided to do it as one document because I found that I was agonising over the length of chapters. This is quite unnecessary because a chapter is only as long as it needs to be; you reach a hook and a new chapter begins. Have a look at anything by Dan Brown (of Da Vinci Code fame); some of his chapters are a couple of pages long but there’s always a hook that makes you turn the page. You have to turn the page. I don’t happen to think that he is a particularly good writer but he is a superb story-teller. If I had a small percentage of that skill, I’d be laughing.
I’ve also found that taking a break is good for the creative process. It allows a certain detachment from the story and can let some new ideas bloom. To help this, I read, watch films on DVD, maybe build a model aircraft and visit IKEA. It’s all kitchen sink stuff, really. In this case, literally.