The blank page is scary. Thankfully, it hasn’t been blank for a week.
I’ve started “the next thing”, just getting my handwritten first page down in a Word document. It’s unpolished and rubbish, but also exciting to have got going. A couple of authors have told me recently that every time you sit down to write a new novel, any hopes that it’ll be an easier process than the last time are delusional. At the moment I’m kind of where I was with Certainty at this stage, which is that I have a pretty good idea of what to do in the first section, a general premise for the second bit, and absolutely no idea what to do with the rest of it – aside from the very last image, which I’ve had in my mind for ages. Though, considering how much the first novel changed through the writing process as I abandoned ideas that were awful and simply wouldn’t have worked, it’s open to question whether the ending I’m imagining will survive.
I’m one of those people who doesn’t have (or want) everything mapped out before I start. I’m firmly of the belief that there’s a balance to be struck here, between being clueless about where to go and trying to feel my way there as I’m writing (which can lead to a whole load of blind alleys), and having the kind of strict outline that potentially discourages experimentation and creativity. I’ve described the sweet spot as being like a map with the towns on it but the roads missing, and that’s how I’m working again.
As I think I’ve mentioned before, the third part of Certainty’s first draft was written in three very intense days, when I had an exact plan of what I had to do in every single chapter. It’s the first and only time I’ve ever done that. It turned out really well for that one example, but I think it’s something to do only when working my way towards the climax of the story. Part of the fun (and pain) of a first draft is working out what the novel’s going to be while writing it, and that necessitates a less regimented approach in the beginning. Sure, last time around this meant that I wrote in short bursts, and then stopped for a while as I tried to work out what should happen in the next bit in order to reach the next plot marker intact, but it all worked out okay in the end.
It may sound like I’m flailing around looking for ideas. I’m not – I think I know at this point what I want to achieve. How to do it is the question, and I’m already wondering how the hell I’m going to pull off certain plans, as the story in Mirrorball is a lot more ambitious than the one in Certainty. The thing I’m looking forward to most is writing more stuff for characters who already exist, and hopefully going deeper, darker and more intense than before. Now’s the time to put everything I learnt from writing the first one into practice. A weekend in rural Devon should be just the place to start motoring, methinks. News on my progress tomorrow, hopefully.