The next book

I’m not far off beginning my next book. The plot has been in the back of my mind for the last six months. It was lightly sketched, with just the major plotlines and protagonists in the frame. I had no notion of how the narrative would actually proceed, and no interest in that point in figuring it out.

In the 6-7 weeks since I sent off the manuscript for my first book, I’ve made a conscious effort to pull back from my writing. I needed a rest from it, and a few fallow weeks might do me good. It didn’t stop me from completing a short story, but for the most part, I attended to other things.

It didn’t stop me from thinking, though. The exercise of writing solidly and working on a single piece of work for 18 months or more has had the effect of activating a part of my mind previously neglected. My skills as a fiction writer are greatly enhanced. I can see more clearly, plot more directly, can – as required – be more ruthless. The process seems to have its own momentum. Though my writing has trailed off, I feel as if there is a part of my mind always at it, always adapting and ever-improving. I suppose this is what happens when you shift from idle dabbler to committed enthusiast. I expect there will be further improvement, and I’m curious to know where it leads. I’m pretty sure it will be to something decent.

Almost without conscious thought, I have found my mind shifting to the new book. It is there lurking always, somewhere close to the forefront of my mind. I’m happy not to poke at it too much. It evolves of its own accord without me doing much, and occasionally something of it will enter my conscious mind. It will sit there, a curiosity. If I have a moment, I’ll turn it over in the hands of my mind. I’ll check to see what reflects off it. As if in unfamiliar streets I’ll poke my head around a corner wondering if this is the best way forward; then I’ll move on. I’ll close my eyes and back to sleep, and the internal navigation system will take over.

The result is that what was sketched out before is becoming filled in. Tricky plot points have been resolved. The road ahead extends further every day. The voice becomes more compelling.

I’m itching now to be at it, but have decided to hold off still longer. I’m curious to see how far this can go. There’s a part of me that hopes when I go at it that it will flow from me complete and composed. There are words in me now, phrases, tones of voice, moments. I jot some of them down, and am tempted to do the rest for fear of losing them – but the picture is not yet fully developed. Let it be. Let it happen, let it present itself to me. There will be a power of wrangling when finally I set about writing it properly, I know that well enough, but it will – I hope – come with the force of an established truth that needs only to be interpreted.

I don’t know. This is what I hope. For now, it’s an experiment – I’m still a novice at this. One way or another, I will begin soon enough. Regardless of everything else in my life, the knowledge of it is both exciting and satisfying.

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