• Further into the darkness

    30 July 2009
    Finished my edit of the second book of my new series. This one really excited me!! I never know, when I complete a first draft, how it will read several months down the road. Does it all hang together? Does it need to be ripped apart and re-structured? Does it work? It's not until I return for my first edit that I get a sense of whether or not I achieved what I set out to. Sometimes I think I've done a great job, only to realise I have a long way yet to go. On other occasions (Lord Loss was one such time) I feel like I haven't done a story justice, only to realise with delight that it's far stronger than I suspected. This fall into the latter bracket. I though the book was pretty good back when I first the first draft in January, but reading through it half a year later, it got me buzzing!!! It's very dark, a true descent into an underworld of viciousness, madness and murder. But, hell, it's FUN!!!! The first book of the series had to deal with racism, so it wasn't as much of a riot. But having got the ground rules out of the way, I was freed to cut loose a bit more in the second book, and I think it's a good 'un!!!

    I'm also starting to run with the new idea I had the other day -- much of the series is still a mystery to me, but I've seen the way I need to go in the next book (or at least part of the way), and I've got a better scent of the story now. Young writers often ask me how do I get ideas, as if there's some magic involved in the process. And I guess, in a way, there is -- but it's not in getting the ideas. As I often say, EVERYONE has ideas -- we all day-dream and dream at night and let our imaginations drift off during quiet moments. What you do differently as a writer is fix onto a few specific ideas and push them further, bounce other ideas off of them, run them through a mental mill and start interrogating them, asking what would happen if you do THIS with the idea, what would happen if you do THAT with the idea. Like a detective following the trail of a clue, you can't teach yourself to always spot a vital clue, but you CAN teach yourself to make the most of it when you do. The more you write and play around with stories, the more you'll be able to do with a good idea when it comes to you.

    I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Ideas are NOT the key to being a good writer. Knowing how to handle a good idea, and how to turn it into a lean, mean moster of a story IS. You can have a great idea for a book at any stage of your life, at any age, under any set of circumstances. But to turn that into a great book, you need to have the experience that only comes with lots of writing. Wannabe writers who sit around asking, "How is it done?" are going to stuggle to advance. Wannabe writers who actually push ahead with their stories and struggle with them and tease them into shape will learn and figure out by themselves how it's done -- and they will soar. The magic's in the doing, dude -- you've got to find it for yourself!!!
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