Bookends and Cold Turkey


So this week is half term week, and I’m supposed to be stepping away from the computer, remembering I have a family and spending some time with The Husband and The Sprogs. As you can see, that’s going well! I’m generally not very good at Cold Turkey, whether that’s biscuits, booze or books…

In all seriousness, this is something I really need to do for a few days. The thing about being in the thick of a first draft, though, is that you end up feeling a bit like Odysseus facing the Sirens. The call of the characters is so strong, that it’s all I can do to step away and ignore them. In fact, I’ve been sneakily adding some bits and pieces to the story since the kids have been in bed (small sprog crashed out on the sofa, and big sprog has just headed upstairs, so I feel less guilty about it, and The Husband has been plugged into the PS4 for an hour or two now), and now that dinner’s in the oven I can add a little more. I guess I’m so used to being a writing ninja that it’s a hard habit to break!

Something I am trying to do now I’m on the home stretch of the first draft is to bookend the chapters. As you know if you’ve ever read any of my blog posts about my so-called process, I write everything out of sequence and then stitch it together usually after there’s about 50k in place. I work to a maximum word limit these days of 100k, so once it’s about half done, I can usually get things in a rough order. For this current novel, I’ve also been writing in plotlines, as there are three distinct strands to follow, all concerning different characters (some are familiar characters, and some are brand new ones). This stranding has made putting things together a bit easier, and working out where the ‘beats’ of this story should fall easier, too.

But the bookending is something a little different. I tend to write myself into scenes by using dialogue. I hear characters so clearly in my head that I like to start every scene at first draft stage with some sort of conversation, but of course that wouldn’t work structurally for a whole novel – it would get awfully repetitive! So what I tend to do at this stage, when I’m about 60-70k in and stuff is vaguely in the right order, is to write the openings and endings to the scenes I’ve already written. These are my bookends, and it’s where I can set the dialogue into its context. Of course, I’m aware all the time of the dreaded ‘information dump’, which I’m trying not to do, as with the novels I write, it generally is all about characters driving the action, rather than plot, and I don’t want to slow the pace. Probably, a lot of what I add now will come back out again later, but there does need to be an element of scene setting to frame all the conversation! But the bookending process is a useful one, mainly to set characters in their environment and give the reader some context and when and where stuff is taking place. I wish I could drop a quick example in, but I don’t want to give anything away just yet about book 3’s plot and characters! Let’s just say that I think, if you liked the first two books, you’ll find a lot to like in this one, too :).

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