Sunday 8 August 2010

Momentum and research, but not necessarily in that order

I thought it was about time I actually wrote something about writing. This past week or so has been quite productive for me; I've finally swept aside the dust and cobwebs and got back to working on my novel. The reasons it has languished untouched for the last eight months are many, but as you can imagine going back to something after such a long time is not a task to be taken lightly. I was beginning to think that having taken more than half a year off, I would find it was no longer a story I was interested in telling, or that the characters were boring, or that I'd find so many inconsistencies in the style I'd get overwhelmed with it and just bin the whole thing.

Well, I did get a bit overwhelmed with it. It is, after all, 82,000 words I wrote between 2007 and 2009, in various bursts of activity and with various underlying aims and ideas regarding what the story was actually about. It is, in places, a tangled mess with more ideas than structure, and there are characters in key scenes early in the book who I replaced with other characters later on, and I'm not sure what to do about it. Plus it doesn't help that I didn't actually finish the first draft before I 'parked' it, so - having decided that the whole thing should have been written in first- rather than third-person perspective - as I start waaaaay back at the beginning, I don't even have the satisfaction of knowing I've already written "THE END".

But, despite having a small and temporary freak-out at the enormity of the task I'm inflicting upon myself, the important stuff (Do I still like the characters? Yes. Do I still "believe" in the story? Yes. Do I still feel a blast of excitement from imagining myself at the other end of the process, clutching a completed manuscript in my sweaty little paws and working my way through the Artist's & Writer's Handbook, sending it off to publishers? Hell, yes!) is all in place. So, it's good, and having had a couple of days where I've knocked out 2,000 words or so at a time - some new, some edited - it feels like I stand a decent chance of getting some momentum behind the project and, this time, getting all the way to the end.

One of the events that gave me a proverbial kick up the arse book-wise was a friend of mine inviting me on a tour of Birmingham airport. The relevance of this is that the opening scenes of my book take place in a teleport hub, which as far as my story is concerned is the futuristic equivalent of an airport. Looking around the place, without the stress and boredom involved of actually having to travel anywhere, helped me see elements that I had missed from my first draft - things that were not exactly crucial to the story but that help put meat on the bones of the idea. I hadn't considered at all, for instance, how a family with a young child would travel via this new technology. The result is that I have had to do a bit more thinking, and although the solution I came up with gets no more than a passing mention, I think it helps make the scene more authentic.

Authenticity is what good fiction is all about, I reckon - you have to convince your reader that all this stuff actually happened, no matter how strange and far-fetched it all gets. If you can throw in elements that make perfect sense but that the reader wouldn't necessarily have thought of, then that helps to prove that you know what you're talking about, and the reader is more willing to follow the trail of fictitious breadcrumbs you're leaving.

... And that's when you've got them right where you want them.


Teresa Stenson said...

Good stuff, Dan, can feel your enthusiasm for it. Is the plan to have it ready for the end of the year then, for Mr Pratchett?

Every now and again me and Dr Kovac think about taking a trip to an airport, for a day out. It's appealing, then you think, 'No, we can't - it's too weird. What if someone finds out?' Good place for people watching though. Must find one with a Caffe Nero.

Looking forward to hearing how the rewriting/revisions go.

Dan Purdue said...

Having read a bit more about the Pratchett competition, I'm no longer convinced my story is other-worldly enough to fit the requirements. Still, end of the year is a good and (theoretically) achievable goal.

I know what you mean about airports. I drive past a motorway service station every so often and think, I MUST go and do some writing there. I have no idea why that is, it just appeals.

Part of me wonders what would happen if you kept going to an airport day after day and just sort of hung out, never travelling or doing anything in particular. Would Security get upset about it? Would you be interrogated? Is loitering in an airport WHSmith's illegal?

Unknown said...

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