Hello from the depths of my study, amid teetering piles of research material and pages of notes! Hope you’re all well and enjoying the start of autumn. I’ve been working hard as I intended: at 25,000 words into the first draft, it’s “so far, so good” with the new book, even if there’s a long way to go yet.
I always think of this stage as the word equivalent of painting a big colourful picture. You need to fill the canvas completely with broad brushstrokes to block in the main features. It’s an undercoat – little more than a guide for the more detailed work that will form the top layer that you’ll gradually build up. This really is one of the fun parts, because it’s all about experimenting and it doesn’t have to be perfect.
The allowing of it to be imperfect is key to the whole process, for me at least. It completely eliminates writer’s block, as putting words down fast kick starts the imagination. How many of the current 25,000 words make it into the finished book? I’ve no idea. They are the building blocks. The good parts will survive to the next stage, and the parts that make me cringe will be cut or rewritten.
It’s a good time to write key dialogue and conversation scenes, though, because they have to sound spontaneous and new all the way through to the finished book, and sometimes I’ll hardly change these from this first enthusiastic charge into the heart of the book.
It’s not a good time to read any reviews of previous books. I think I’m very open to criticism and have a strong sense of how I might take feedback and improve. With the new book, for example, I’m trying hard to inject some rocket fuel under the plot right from the start, and to rein back on superfluous description.
But there comes a point when writers have to be true to themselves and what they are trying to achieve – which is not necessarily what a proportion of Amazon reviewers were expecting, and failed to find. I don’t want to abandon characteristics of my writing that many other readers have written to me personally to say they’ve loved.
And whenever I feel daunted, I make myself smile and remind myself that this is fun. I never forget that I might otherwise be commuting to a job I hate, or be a square peg in a round hole of any number of work situations, and that I’m very lucky to have the chance to do this in the first place.