Writing my new book: an update

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My last book Bad Blood is set in the same ‘universe’ as Lucky and Broken. Ian Fletcher from Lucky makes a couple of appearances inside parallel universes and both Lucy Tasker (from Lucky) and Danny O’Brien (from Broken) appear in the epilogue. This was to lay the foundation for some kind of Avengers/Justice League style sequel in the future in which all the characters team up.

My new book is that sequel. Writing it can best be described as sporadic. For a while Trello was helping me immensely with the planning and the writing process, to the point where I wrote a blog post about it – How Trello is helping me write my new novel. I’m still using Trello and it is still very useful to me, but it hasn’t given me any inspiration in how the story will develop; and that’s where I keep stumbling.

The problem is that, probably for the first time ever, I have no clear idea in my mind about how the story should end. The extra challenge is that I am using three characters who I have already established in three earlier books and essentially I am writing Bad Blood 2, Lucky 2 and Broken 2. All at the same time! Having deliberately painted myself into a corner with the epilogue of Bad Blood I have the challenge of making it all make sense in this new book.

Also, you can assemble the Avengers, but once you’ve established the dynamics between all the characters (and sure, don’t get me wrong, that’s part of the fun) you need to give them a worthy opponent. On this score I think I’ve managed to do this. 230 pages into my first draft and the bad guy is perhaps the most three-dimensional antagonist I have ever written. My problem is, like my plucky trio, I can’t quite figure out what he’s up to. What’s his motivation and big plan? Without this I’m a little adrift.

On the positive side each time I have a string of useful writing episodes, akin to some kind of productive opposite of binge-watching season after season of Comic Book Men (something I’m afraid isn’t helping me write), I feel as though I have made one more step up this mountainous molehill of my own making.

I have established some new characters and some interesting sub-plots and even killed off a few of them already. I’ve enjoyed sessions of research about ice fishing in Russia, Polish pilots in WWII (helped by watching the film 303 Squadron recently), house prices in Knutsford and police procedures. I feel that I am making progress.

With no deadline for this novel there is a marked danger of my being majorly distracted by other things. It’s totally the opposite of how I behave at work where almost everything I write is written with a publication deadline in sight.

That said, when I’m stuck for ideas, when my imagination is stuttering, I think it actually pays to take some time away from the project. I get new ideas filtering in from all sorts of areas and I never cease to be amazed about how my subconscious can tap me on the shoulder in the middle of the night and either offer a fresh solution to a problem I’ve been trying to solve in the story for weeks or (and not such good news) say something like ‘well that character would never do that because…’ and I’m usually face-palming all the way to my keyboard.

So the subconscious is a powerful problem-solving and imagination engine for me. It’s just a pity that I don’t seem able these days to consciously come up with fresh ideas that aren’t just rehashes of the plots of movies I’ve seen or books I have read. It’s a good job I can distinguish between novel ideas and regurgitation. It’s like listening to music when I write and accidentally putting song lyrics into the dialogue. Something to be avoided. I need each of my books to be novel.

Anyway, I will keep plugging away at it and try not to beat myself up over how challenging I am finding the writing process this time around. And if you’ve noticed a lack of blog posts this year, then I hope you can forgive me. I’d like to say that I’m working on my new book, but I’ve most likely been distracted by what’s on TV.

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