At the start of this month I began work on a new book, tentatively titled DIE EASY: Charlie Fox book ten.
Actually, that’s not entirely true – well, what do you expect from someone who lies for a living? I should say that as far as I’m concerned there’s nothing tentative about it – DIE EASY is the perfect title for this story. Ever since I first saw the old Bruce Willis classic ‘Die Hard’ I’ve wanted to do a riff on that theme. Let’s face it, it was that movie turned a light comedy TV leading man into an all-action movie star, bare feet and all. And as my book is set in New Orleans – The Big Easy – what better title?
OK, that was itsy little lie #1.
Itsy little lie #2 was that I didn’t start this book on October 1st. I should say I RE-started the book this month, as I wrote the opening three chapters and the half-page jacket copy outline way back at the beginning of this year.
But then Other Things got in the way – like getting the entire Charlie Fox backlist out in e-format, plus putting together an e-thology of CF short stories, FOX FIVE: a Charlie Fox short story collection. And I have to say that I don’t begrudge the time spent on those projects at all. It was a thoroughly energising experience that has brought me back to my writing, and the series, with renewed enthusiasm, as I’ll explain.
Having found out, however, that my lovely US publisher Pegasus Books is bringing FIFTH VICTIM: Charlie Fox book nine out in January 2012 instead of the March I was expecting, I realised that I needed to Extract My Digit in quite a big way if I’m to deliver the finished t/s of the next book before publication of the last one.
(Of course, Brit readers have already been able to get hold of 5V from Allison & Busby since March this year.)
At that point I had only 5800 words written out of 100-110,000 and no full outline. I knew the broad brushstrokes, the major dramatic highlights and emotional themes, but not the nitty-gritty that would enable me to actually get on with the scribbling.
So why write the opening scenes at all?
Because I wanted to know where it all began. Sounds totally illogical, but very few books start at the very beginning of the story itself. Deciding the right jumping-in point – where you grab the reader by the arm and rush them towards the edge of the cliff – is a vital choice for me. Until I know that, I can’t get on with it. I know some people just start writing and worry about that later, but sadly I’m not one of them.
From early on in the series, I’ve been trying to avoid the foreshadowing opening. The ‘had I but known’ style of thing. I did it in the first book KILLER INSTINCT, but I’ve tried to avoid it since, otherwise it becomes very old very fast. I’ve used a couple of flashforward openings, though, and those I do like.
When I wrote ROAD KILL: Charlie Fox book five the original opening for the story had a group of soldiers standing around a fallen motorcyclist who lay screaming in the middle of a road through a very dodgy housing estate in East Belfast, with an angry crowd gathering.
It was a great opening chapter and I loved it.
But it never made it into the final cut of the book. It simply did not drop my protag – and the reader – into the right place in the story. One of the reasons that book was such a pig to write was that I held onto that opening chapter far longer than I should have done. Even now, I still hanker after that original rather than the first chapter I eventually went with. But the final version – which opens with Charlie swinging a sledgehammer into the walls of her cottage – does better serve the story.
But I digress.
It’s now twenty days into October, and so far I’ve had three zero-word days and one day when I only managed a bit of reshuffling, which added 43 words to my total. (Yes, I’m sad enough to keep it all on a spreadsheet.) But yesterday I still managed to hit 20,000 words and I’m aiming to be at 35k by the end of the month.
Then 70k by the end of November, and 105k by the end of the year. That leaves me the last bits to finish off in January, print it all out, do a read through to try and catch inconsistencies, repetitions, check my chapter breaks are in the most effective positions, and ruthlessly scalpel out unnecessary words.
Just like that. Ha!
I hope you’ll stop by and have a giggle at my expense.
Speaking of having a giggle at my expense, if you happen to be near South Wales next week – October 26th – I shall be appearing at the Newport Big Read event in Gwent. If you can make it, I’d love to see you there.
So, ‘Rati, that’s how I’m intending to tackle my writing schedule over the next couple of months. How about yourselves? And if you’re not writing a book at the moment, how do you deal with big tasks that seem overwhelming at first glance? Do you break them down into work first/reward later, or do you put them off as long as you can possibly manage before knuckling down?
This week’s Word of the Week is ultracrepidate, which means to criticise beyond the sphere of one’s knowledge. It comes from the painter Apelle’s answer to the cobbler who went on from criticising the sandals in a picture to finding fault with the leg. “Ne sutor ultra crepidam.” – “The cobbler must not go beyond the sandal.”