First published on 11 Mar 2008. Updated on 20 Mar 2008.
I’m not superstitious. But once a commitment to a work is made, there does seem to be a lot of serendipity, or synchronicity.
For me, a book usually starts with a question – the answer then leads to more questions – and so on and so forth until gradually the story builds up into shape.
I don’t socialize; I don’t waste time doing things I don’t want to. I’m not sure if I’m prolific – I generally do a book a year – but currently I’m engaged on a huge Young Adult project for Scholastic.
It’s a 12 volume thriller, which means a book (at least to first draft stage) every two months! Even though the books are only 30,000 words each, it’s still a huge job. At the moment, I’m writing the first draft of Book Nine while also working with my editor on Book One. I’m also jotting down notes for other non-existent books as ideas arise.
I now have a room of research notes and can find things pretty quickly – also a few phone numbers I can call – detectives, spooks, pathologists, that sort of thing...
Once I’ve finished a first draft, I see the mess I’m in and that’s when I start rewriting. I like this stage because I’ve got something to work with, not the blank paper anymore. I drop scenes that are boring, or that don’t push the story along or that aren’t ‘active’ enough. Actors say ‘when the actor sits down on the stage, the play sits down, too’ and it’s the same with prose scenes. I try to keep them on the move.
Bryce Courtenay talks about ‘bum glue’ – that means just staying at the desk. I don’t leave the house until I’ve done my ‘darg’ – 1000 words. Sometimes I do more, but I’m not allowed out until the thousand mark. When it’s all running smoothly, I love it. When it’s giving me blisters, I grizzle and go for walks.
I have five books lined up knocking at the back of my head saying “What about me? When are you going to do me?”. I think writers’ block is just another idea to get attached to, another avoidance technique. If you sit down and work out your story, your characters, and then do a story treatment, and then break up the story into chunks, chapters, and do an outline of each chapter, there’s no need for writers’ block.