Saturday, 26 July 2014

When a writer knows next to nothing about the book they just published

It might seem suspicious when a writer is confused over a book they've just published, when they appear to have little more than a vague idea of what it’s all about. But in fact it’s just timing.

There comes a point in the process of writing a book where the story moves beyond a skeleton idea and really begins to take shape. It starts to ‘feel right’. The characters come to life, the backdrop switches from black & white to colour, the drama builds. Flesh (appropriately for a crime novel) attaches to the bones.

But such are production schedules that something else happens at this magical moment. The previous book barges back into shot and demands attention. Minute attention. It demands edits, macro and micro; it demands checking of copy-edits; it demands that its author’s mind is drawn back to all of its twists, turns, characters and shenanigans.

The old story goes into battle against the new. Those characters from the current tale bursting to life on the page are suddenly dogged by ghosts from a previous book. Who is doing what? Which plot strand belongs where? Who was the target of that red-herring? Was that the despairing cry of the author falling into a morass of tangled plot lines and wishing that the old book would get out of her head?

But that old book is actually the new book in publication terms. These are its final birth pangs before it lands on the bookshop shelves. It’s just the author who has moved on, who is now living in the next fictional world. It’s brand new to the reader, but to the writer it’s just a vague memory.

1 comment:

  1. An experience I've certainly had, and one, I suspect that plagues many writers.

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