I am close to 9000 words into the sequel novel and I am coming up for air. It’s odd when a chapter writes itself in two hours. Oh sure it will be edited and tweaked probably a million more times, but it’s flowing, good and fast like the Hudson River. If that flows fast?! Just popped into my head. I think it, I write it. Where does it even come from?
Starting a new novel usually takes longer, finding the character’s voice, and his or her quirks. I have talked many times on here about how you need to create flaws and mannerisms and tics that make your character feel real. And while some you plan, most appear — by magic. What I had never thought about before was how nice it is to write characters that are already fully formed. The thing about a sequel is you already know your ‘people’, well the key ones at least, so their voice comes so much easier. And that is what I am finding now.
In addition, picking up the story threads six weeks on means I also know what happened to my people, and by way of a quick but not overdone recap for those who have not read book one (even though you hope they will have read book one) means you can process what happened. And the plan I have drafted means I also know where this is heading. I know the function of each chapter. Only now come the surprises.
It’s interesting how many things happen as if by magic and certainly there has been some of that since I started to work on this sequel. This morning is a case in point when my favourite flawed character with the most distinctive voice ends Chapter 4 in a way I have never actually planned. Oh, the thing it relates to was going to happen in this chapter, but not quite this way. And this is what I was talking about last week: when it surprises you but feels right, then it should surprise your reader.
So I thought I would share before I go back in to tweak.
Writing is a powerful way to lose yourself to find yourself.
And I am now possessed.
And that, for now, is all.
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Last night I was interested to see in BBC4’s The Brain that many of our day to day activities are not under our conscious control. As we learn and develop new skills, continuous daily action hardwires the brain and brings about physical changes. So patterns that seem to require a lot of skill initially and fire up a lot of neurones, become fixed established brain patterns. This is why things like learning to drive can be challenging but once established and fixed in the brain, you can do it without thinking about it.
It’s how we move so apparently effortlessly, it’s how we do just about anything that we do a lot!
They talked about being ‘in the zone’ where time loses meaning and we just do things, seemingly on autopilot. I love this idea of how our brains get physically changed by things we do all the time. Mum thinks when I work I read fast, when I don’t think I do, but I am guessing since it’s my job I read faster than her and I also spot things I would never have spotted once by training myself to look for errors and incorrect spacing etc.
As I sit here now typing I barely look down at the keys and yet I was never taught touch typing but when it’s something you do every day and have for so long it’s amazing how competent we become.
I think losing myself in the creative flow is the thing I love the most about my writing life. I have struggled a little to capture the beating heart of the new novel but now I know what it is telling me it wants to be I am excited. It’s a process and one that once immersed in becomes a real joy. I wonder which part of my brain has been changed to accommodate the new story and its new characters. I wonder if fictitious characters create neural pathways of their own and implant memories that while not real in the usual sense, are real never the less. Are these pathways any different, I wonder, to real memories?
I will leave you with that thought as we draw closer to the weekend. I am adding model to my CV this weekend as I have been asked to take part in a charity fashion show, for my sins! I did think when they asked me to help that I would be needed to proof fliers or the like, but no they meant model the clothes! Now I have never seen myself as a model I have to say and I did say no repeatedly until I had no choice! It’s all in a good cause and I do not intend to strut my stuff on the catwalk (and yes there is one apparently!) too seriously! Me? Come on.
See you next week folks and thanks for reading!
I am still reworking Isle of Pelicans and while I am not a crime writer per se, there is a crime and series of dark events in this novel. What I have found hard to come to grips with is getting into the mindset of a man who has no issue with killing or taking a child. As a writer I feel the need to understand to write him; to get to grips with his actions. There is a tremendous need I feel to create some elements of empathy, however fragile, even in the darkest characters, so we understand how they came to be as they are and they are not evil caricatures but still real people. Making some sense of that is one thing, but allowing him to act in a way we would never do is harder still, because the rational part of me screams maybe it was an accident, maybe he didn’t really do that. But he needs to — for story. While we seek logic in how we allow the elements of a plot to unfold, when someone acts in a way so far removed from what we know to be rational or good, it’s hard to connect to that. And as writer we need to connect to that darkness to make it feel real — I might have to return to Stephen King to see how the master achieves this.
So it’s been a week of re-examining plot and motivation to make sense of what happens. This novel is proving to be a real challenge and seems to want to fight me all the way. I know there is something in there, but it hasn’t quite lined up yet. But it will.
So, it’s been that kind of week, planning, plotting, reworking as well as critiquing a Scottish historical novel which is somewhat apt given the events of this week.
This time next week I’ll be back in Wales for my last day as I get ready to move the boxes and rest of my things and this lovely office of mine can be complete. It’s the simple things — I designed a mouse mat for my new office yesterday, will share it below! Small things…
Have a great weekend. I will be blogging Monday and Tuesday and then off to Wales for Phase Two of the move.
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