Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Sunday, 26 January 2014

Cooking up a new book, by Jenny Harper

Making cakes is a great displacement
activity from writing!
Photo Ardfern, Wikimedia Commons.
I'm back at the beginning again. I've spent the last couple of months editing, rewriting, proofing and scaling the vertical cliff that was my learning curve for uploading to Kindle and CreateSpace. Now it's time I started another book.

Part of me is itching to write! Another part is groaning, because I know that the next three or four months are going to be frustrating to the point of head-banging.

Why? It seems to take me an age to settle on a good idea, create and get to know my characters, add in the kind of complexity I like in my books, go off down half a dozen blind alleys, rename the main characters, change the plot ... well, you get the picture.

I envy writers like fellow NPoV blogger Jennifer Young, who comes up with loads of great plots with apparent ease! For me, it's hell.

'Just relax and the ideas will come,' I'm told. Wrong. Just relax and I'll find myself making cakes, seeing friends, watching telly, going for walks – all very pleasant, but not contributing much to the ideas pot.

Having said that, of course, those great dinners with friends, all those places visited on walks, or city breaks, or holidays, provide lots of material for characters and locations, and I know my writing would be poorer without them. But still, I'm like a dog with bone - I get hold of an idea, then have to worry away at it, turn it that way and this, chew it over, rearrange its shape and structure, until it's finally something I'm happy to embark on.

My recent experience of preparing my books for Amazon taught me that a great one-paragraph blurb, combined with a two-line trailer really focuses the attention on the core of the story. I was determined not to move on to developing the idea until I got these two elements honed to perfection. After all, they will be the teasers that will intrigue readers and draw them to my book. The trouble is, what seems a good idea on Day One, somehow seems to have shifted by the time I get to Month Six!

I do have the beginnings of an idea. I think I'll note it down and put it in a sealed envelope somewhere safe. Remind me to look at it again in six months and I'll confess just how close/adrift the novel is by then!

Please tell me there are others out there who struggle with this first part of a new book too!

15 comments:

  1. Oh, Jenny, go on - give us a clue!

    Thanks for the compliment, but I have my share of slow-burning, constantly evolving, horribly painful plots too. The quick and easy ones are very few (and even those usually grow out of something else which didn't work.)

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  2. It's such a small kernel at the moment it's not even worth sharing. Maybe when I get back from hols!

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  3. Oh, Jenny, I can't tell you how many bits of 'new book' I have abandoned - temporarily - I hope because the original 'brilliant' idea no longer seems to be remotely interesting.
    If I could make cakes like the scrupmtious looking one in your pic I'd give up writing books and focus on catering as a career!

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    1. Sadly, not my cake - though funnily enough, I made one just like it this afternoon for guests arriving shortly! I'm glad I'm not the only one who has problems getting a brilliant idea!

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  4. Umm - I was not suggesting you give up writing books! Just in case it sounded like that. I loved Face the Wind and Fly and am looking forward to the next one.

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    1. Thanks for that vote of confidence, Mary! Your wish is my command - Loving Susie will be published mid February...

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  5. In one of my current problematic wips I have a character say, with reference to her garden, 'I wish I had a bigger plot.' I know how she feels ...

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  6. Oooooh - Jenny - your writing process sounds exactly like mine and so I feel better already! I too am about to start my next (8th) book and I have what I 'think' is a great idea, a great premise and two characters with a conflict to overcome in order to realise they are meant to be together forever. I'm planning to start on the 30th January - simply because my astrology tells me that's my most creative time of the month! I'm excited and terrified all at the same time because, like you say, I know I'm in for a few months of frustrating head banging trauma until I get the first draft down!
    Let's compare notes?! :)
    I do have Face the Wind... on my Kindle and I'm SO looking forward to reading it. Love, Janice xxx

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  7. Good luck with that, Janice! Bet you finish WAY before I do! Hope you enjoy FTWAF - and thanks for dropping by here.

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  8. I so sympathise Jenny. I both love and hate the process of getting involved in a new book, which is what I'm doing at the moment. Part of it is the excitement of new characters and new setting - but then there's the worry about plot, and have I got the names right, and is this really going to be of any interest to anyone but me...

    Good luck on the journey!

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    1. Some of those feelings are still with me at the end, Gill!!

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  9. I absolutely empathise, Jenny - I love the editing stage for a finished book but have to drag myself to the desk to get on with a new one or (in my case) to finish the several novels begun too long ago! Good luck with yours.

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  10. I love editing too, Rosemary. That's when the novel can really start to shine. But there's a lot to get through before I reach that delightful stage, I'm afraid!

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