I promised myself that I wouldn’t even think about my next book until Paradise was done and dusted, but I’ve been struggling.
I know that if we get an offer from a publisher there will inevitably be rewriting and editing to be done to the manuscript – the question is not whether, but how much. Because of that, I am reluctant to start getting too involved in any new writing projects as it will be difficult to switch gears between the two. I’ve never been one for multi-tasking. Even one thing at a time can be a bit much. Still, while I’m enjoying writing this blog and deliberately not working on any fiction, I can’t stop the old wheels turning. Almost without trying, an idea is slowly crystalizing in my brain about Book 6. Paradoxically, given my epic problems with titles in the past, I even have an idea what to call it: “A History of Flight”.
So, right now I am in full magpie mode. In this post I talked about where ideas for stories come from, and I am presently in the happy situation of being bombarded by curious little thoughts – nothing grand, to be sure, just little snippets of ideas, possible plot ideas, and (best of all) small details which flesh out the characters in my mind. My job is to spot these ideas and write them down before they waltz away from me.
For me, characters tend to come before plot. They develop over time, until I’m ready to work out what to do with them. This is an exciting stage in the process. I never go anywhere without a notepad these days. It seems I can’t drive down the road without seeing something that sparks an idea. Of course, many of those won’t make it anywhere near the page, but my internal editor is switched off right now. The trick is to let them come while they may – I can always weed out the bad ones later on. At the moment these nuggets are scribbled down all over the place – backs of envelopes, notepads, random bits of paper. Today I am going to buy a small leather-bound notebook and will put everything down in one place. The act of transcribing ideas often gives rise to new ones. Sometimes the lucky juxtaposition of two unconnected thoughts forms another, greater than the sum of its parts. (Sometimes.)
Best of all, while everything is quietly fermenting in my head, I give myself a pass on writing anything. I don’t want to put metaphorical pen to paper too soon. In a funny way, sentences on the page are the enemy of promise – once you begin to tell the story, you get hemmed in by the words and it can be difficult to wriggle free and follow another course. So it’s best to wait until the last possible moment before starting to write. Make the most of those ideas while they come.
Update: You will see from the comments section that one of my correspondents, the lovely Hellen from the UK, suggests I use a Moleskine notebook to keep track of my thoughts when they arise. Excellent advice. In fact I had already bought one – bright red, thank you very much, to distinguish it from all the other notebooks I have lying about. You could do worse: