Here we go…

So, finally I am getting down to Book 3. Here’s the Moleskin notebook that I got for Christmas and have been saving for this moment! It even came with a branded pen (which I’m less keen on; the clip makes it heavy and doesn’t actually clip on anything very well, so I can see it getting lost pretty quickly!).

I really like notebooks that (like this one) have a pocket at the back for loose notes. I have transferred across from my last book notes on the Deverby succession, the Sedgewick family tree and some building plans. I may need them, I may not! Plus a photo of our sadly departed Emmy the black labrador, which I guess is a sort of talisman.

Here we go!

The best laid plans…

July is slipping by and I’m afraid I have to report a delay to the actual writing of Book 3. The trouble with (slowly) increasing my Twitter network is that I keep seeing these really tempting short story calls for magazines and anthologies. Well, I saw one a few weeks ago that it turned out I couldn’t resist in the end. A story gradually formed in my mind that eventually pushed Book 3 into the passenger seat and took over the wheel for a week or so!

In my defence, this particular short story is set in a hot July and we were in the middle of an actual heatwave. Book 3 will have a wintry December setting, so my mind just wasn’t in the right place as the temperature in my International HQ (aka the garden shed) exceeded 33 C!

I still have some editing to do, but otherwise that itch is scratched, now, and I can settle down to Book 3 with renewed energy! And it’s not as if I’ve been doing nothing – background research and refinement of ideas continue. So does the sketching of little maps, as evidenced below. Nothing quite says laser-focussed planning in detail like “Village up here-ish.”

Thickening the plot

Bit by bit, the story of Book 3 is continuing to take shape. I don’t know how it works for other writers, but I start off with a broad sweep of plot in my head. It has a start point and an end point, with maybe a set-piece scene or two already in mind. From there, it’s an iterative process, one that starts with a fairly fuzzy wide shot, then gradually zooms in on each element of the story in turn. Each iteration sharpens the picture a bit more… but not before it has thrown up some problems, of course!

In fact, I find that plotting a novel is essentially a problem-solving process. That’s fine by me; I like that sort of thing. Some of these problems are technical ones that can be solved by research. They’re the easy ones! That leaves the tricky ones – what motivates the characters to move through the plot? How do they react to each event? What do they know, what can they work out and what decisions do they then make?

Which is all a way of saying that the characters end up driving a lot of what happens. And yes, that really can mean that the story will take a turn I had not originally intended! The number of times I have found myself saying “No, they would NEVER do that… they would do THIS…” and off the narrative goes in a different direction. Oh, it still gets to where I need it to be – but invariably by a more interesting route than the one I had planned!

So, that’s where I am at the moment; turning over the key scenes in my mind and thinking through how the characters will act. As I do so, the motivations that drive the characters and the hooks I will need to pull them to the next scene become apparent. Honestly, I sometimes feel my first draft is as much a surprise to me as it is to my readers!

It’s not a very predictable process, so I can’t say when I’ll be getting down to writing the actual story. All I know is, not quite yet!

Beer and Book 3

Ok, I promised an actual post with some content, so here it is!

It has been a busy couple of months since releasing ‘Those Under The Hill’, the second of my Jack Glennison novels. During that time, I’ve been taking a break from Darkisle. Apart from pushing the new novel (and its predecessor, ‘The Gathering of Shadows’), I’ve been focussing on some short story submissions to magazines and anthologies. And not a bad success rate, though I do say so myself! Four submissions, with two acceptances, one near miss and one still pending.

Anyway, on with Book 3! The ideas behind my Darkisle fiction have been kicking around in my head for years. Decades, even. But there’s a big difference between having an idea and getting it down as a story, of course! Last Saturday saw the start of that process for Book 3.

It helped that it was warm and sunny, that I had the day to myself and that there was a mini-Beer Festival on in Durham, down by the River Wear. So off I went with my notebook (for making a start on the plot), phone (for research) and Robbie the rescue greyhound (who serves no useful purpose at all).

I was fairly satisfied with the results. I’ve got a plot outlined (two plots, in reality) and a really clear idea of the finale. Now to get them to mesh together, with the right characters in the right places, with no inconsistencies and with the overall arc of the series progressing as planned. I would love to be able to say that all this is thought out in advance and laid down with military precision, but in truth it’s a rather haphazard process with me, with lots of scribbled notes (often joined by arrows to other scribbled notes), many crossings out and the occasional sketch map. It’s all very organic at first, with a lot of trial and error. There will be some order applied, at some point, honest. Just not yet!

So where did I get to in the space of a sunny afternoon (and five pints)? Well, some thoughts on another part of Darkisle to explore. A rationale for some interesting developments within the Church of the Celestial Shadow. One idea for Something Horrific. And some interesting uses for copper sulphate…. The picture above summarises the progress during the second pint (with the pen hiding a plot idea, and the redacted area hiding the Horrific Something).

Early days yet. I’m still a way off actually starting to write. But the process has started!

Robbie, however, didn’t look overly impressed….

A first blog post!

So, I have it on good authority that authors should have blogs and who am I to argue? Here, then, is the start of mine. Not much of interest yet, just to let you know I’ll be using this mostly to post updates about my writing. Particularly – for the next few months – concerning Book 3 in the Glennison Darkisle Case series – currently going by the imaginative working title of ‘Book 3’. The next post will be more interesting, I promise!