Organised Chaos

Today is the annual New Year meal on my step-dad’s side of the family. Back in the day this used to take place at my Grandma’s house, but given the ever-sprawling size of the guest list (unsurprisingly, now that kids have become adults and had kids of their own. And partners. And are bigger), she’d probably have to own a mansion to accommodate everyone. So now we commandeer part of a pub and make the staff cook for us. Huzzah.

It tends to be organised chaos, and this year will be no exception. Grandma just… won’t… sit… down, and so she’ll be running around everywhere as usual, asking everyone if they want a drink or another food order and are you happy with your food and are you sure you’re happy and do you really not want another drink? I usually end up endlessly chatting to my brothers and my sister about videogames, batting off the inevitable questions from people about how the writing’s going. But maybe not this year – I can point to vague progress. (Actually, given my friend Rick’s comments yesterday about too much self-deprecation, you can scratch out the ‘vague’ if you want to.) My friend Sarah wrote yesterday that if Certainty doesn’t sell, she’ll eat her hat. She’s currently going through the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb and, in her words, her ‘Nazi editor’s hat on’. Which presumably means that if there’s a hat to eat, it’ll be that one.

See, I start a blog entry about a family meal and it inevitably descends into something about writing. That’s how much it’s on my mind at the moment. Apparently I’m getting the manuscript back on 10 January, and then I’ll work my way through my original version, inserting whichever of Sarah’s edits that I like. Based on what she’s done with the opening chapters, it’s mainly unclunking certain sentences, trimming a bit of fat, and taking out a few of my main character’s snarkier asides. But she’s said that on quite a few pages she hasn’t had to change anything, which is nice. And since her comment about eating hats was made when she’s likely on part two of the book, which I consider to be the weakest of the three sections, it all bodes well.

Once the changes are done, I then just have to think about the first five pages. I kind of go back and forth on this – it’s not a conventional opening for a thriller, as there’s kind of a slow build in the long first chapter now, instead of the usual genre trope of someone being instantly offed. As someone who’s (obviously) read the entire novel this really isn’t a problem, but I am wondering how it’s going to go down with agents who might be expecting blood and thunder early on. I mean, it’s well written and everything, but arguably it’s a little slow, and if you don’t grab the agent immediately your manuscript sample goes in the bin. So I’m thinking about maybe doing a bit of structural hocus-pocus to front-load the opening. I need to make all the necessary editing changes first, but Sarah had a suggestion about starting the novel with the bit where Sebastian takes a baseball bat to evil computer retailer CompDeck’s stock of shiny new PCs. There’s a nice bit of action there (actually, several people who’ve read the first part of the novel say it’s their favourite bit – seems like it’s wish-fulfillment for some of them!), and then an ideal chapter where I can flash back to how Sebastian got to that point. Could work. Might not. But hey, structural changes are what Scrivener is absolutely amazing for.

I hope I don’t have to do this, to be honest, as I quite like the fact that I don’t open conventionally, but there’s no point in being stubborn about it if it’s going to make the difference. Besides, if I can make it a bit more interesting than the usual boom then flashbacks that I’ve seen so often in thrillers, then I might actually enjoy the change. I have an idea. It’s already been called too complicated, but in my head it totally works. It is complicated, but that’s what makes it cool. Anyway, this is all talk for a couple of weeks’ time. I’ll stew on it until then.

So, it’s been great to blog to you today about my family meal! Er… um. Whoops.

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