Barring a strong North Easterly, computer meltdown or a distorted sense of conscience, I should complete the first draft of my current Work In Progress Scars & Stripes in the next few days. It has been a strange and wondrous writing journey, raking through the bones and memories (and indeed the odd scar or two) of my past so that I can cook it all up as a fictional stew.
At the moment, the main plot is broadly similar to the original experience: boy splits from girl, boy decides to try a new life in America, boy has interesting adventures and hopefully learns something then boy comes back to Britain again. (Because back in the eighties, we hardly ever said ‘UK’.) There’s been a little shuffling and tweaking of the actual chronology and some of the characters are finally developing original little quirks of their own, which is all to the good.
My basic rule is to try and keep original dialogue when it’s particularly evocative, even if the circumstances surrounding the exchange are altered. Or failing that, the essence of the dialogue. On occasion though, it does feel a little like theft. My writer friend Christine recently reminded me that all novelists must have a shard of ice at their heart (and apologies to Chris if I’m misquoting her slightly ) and I think I know what she means now.
Novel writing, whatever else it is, requires contrast and tone, and above all, conflict. Although I strive to avoid dividing characters into two neat piles of hero and villain, the fact remains that some characters are pro protagonist and some anti. Let’s face it, that is in part what drives the plot forwards. In the first full edit, I aim to round out the main characters and personalities, including the one that the book revolves around. Partly to make it a more engaging book and partly so that it is sufficiently different from ‘real life’. The last thing I want is for anyone in it to see themselves and take umbrage.
So with Scars & Stripes reaching the finishing post first time around, I find myself wondering what to work on next in my spare time. I have the second Thomas Bladen book Line of Sight at second draft and I already have the first stirrings of the next Bladen book. It’s hard to know where to put my time and focus next. And while it’s great to have the muse around, maybe she could pop out for a bit and get me a contract!