I normally start a new book by creating a list of dramatic events I know I can dramatise well and which will trigger exciting events further down the line. I don’t particularly worry about who will be participating in these events, nor do I work out masses of details about characters’ back stories.
For the writing of this latest book, I have decided to invert my usual writing process, so I have spent the first week thinking solely about my three main characters. The reason for doing this is twofold.
Firstly, I have been reading a series of “how to” books on character development. The basic idea proposed by these books is that by creating detailed back stories early on, the writer can identify his or her characters’ weaknesses and vulnerabilities – and then ensure that the events in the book prey upon those. This helps create narrative tension and conflict which will test the characters’ resolve and allow them to change and grow (which is the bedrock of all good fiction, drama and film).
Secondly, after writing four crime novels in roughly 3.5 years, I have settled into a comfortable groove while writing and sometimes it is good to shake this up and try new things. Part of the joy of creativity is that there is always something new and useful to learn, no matter how experienced you might be, and hopefully starting with the characters this time around might allow me to further my understanding of the art of writing.
I have also had good ideas for my two lead female characters and will be developing them this week. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I wanted to find ways to include strong female characters without resorting to the typical stale fantasy tropes. (This also gave me an excuse to re-watch Alien and Aliens, which is never a bad thing.)
The final part of this week’s work entailed the making of a firm resolution not to allow my manuscript (a Word document) to become an unmanageable mess. On previous books I have always concentrated on word count in the early stages, writing random snippets here and there in order to get my daily 2,000 words written, and then found myself wasting weeks unpicking the resultant tangle once I got to the 50,000 word mark.
All the best