Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Where to next?

I’m still not sure what to do next, writing-wise.

I’m awaiting further responses from agents regarding The Wicket in the Rec, and still studying the Yearbook for further candidates to submit it to if these end up being rejections. But as to what my next actual novel project will be...

I’m torn between two ideas, as I think I’ve mentioned on here previously. Two very different types of novel, which reflects the fact that when it comes down to it I’m not entirely sure what sort of thing I am best at writing.

One idea is for a novel called Time Engine. It’s a science-fiction story, and an idea I’ve had going around my head, and have played about with in note form, for two or three years now. I even started writing it once before, a few thousand words in early 2010, before decided it wasn’t working and abandoning it. In recent months I re-conceived the story, realised a much better way of doing it, and became excited about it again.

It sort of mixes influences from two of the great fictions I really enjoy – Doctor Who, and Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels.

I adore Sharpe, and have done since I was about nine. I’d like to say I was reading the books before the TV series began in 1993, but I think I actually started reading them just after the first two adaptations were shown. Dad had been a big fan of the novels for years, and had many of them on his bookshelves, for me to happily plunder.

(It’s an interesting experience being at Primary School and doing a reading-out-loud with a book when it contains words like “whore”...)

Sean Bean did a very good job, but for me this will always be what Richard Sharpe looks like. (This was the edition of this particular Sharpe novel that dad owned, and indeed owns still, and which I have read a few times now!)

Bernard Cornwell is a master of writing entertaining historical adventure fiction. The Sharpe novels are very much the Cadbury’s Crème Eggs of literature – they contain almost no nutritional value, but are immensely satisfying to consume. Tightly-written page-turners that, at their best, are as good as absolutely anything else you could ever hope to read. If I had to say I wanted to be like any writer, I think I might well pick Cornwell – successful, rich, highly-regarded and with a string of novels that are just bloody good fun and excellent reads.

The trouble is, I’ve never been entirely sure I’m much good at writing adventure fiction. I’ve tried it a few times, and wrote quite a large chunk of a novel called The Chronicles of Sir Cedric Black back in 2007. It told the story of an eighteenth century ghost hunter, and I was very excited about it at the time, but abandoned it when I felt I’d lost my way with it, and it had become stodgy and difficult.

However, last year I was having a look through some of it, and was struck by how... Well, how entertaining, I found it. Time and distance had made it feel like someone else’s writing, and some of the completed sections may actually be among the best stuff I’ve written. So perhaps I should give it another crack. I’m not sure whether I’d go back and finish The Chronicles of Sir Cedric Black, but maybe I should have a proper run at Time Engine.

But then there’s always the feeling I somehow should be writing something else. Something more... serious.

Because I’m never sure if I want to writing adventure stories of the Bernard Cornwell type, or something more... ‘literary’, I suppose you’d call it. And I do have another idea for a serious, real-world, contemporary fiction piece. A novel that, when I thought of the storyline idea for it back in February, I was literally bouncing up and down in excitement about it.

It’s called Another Life, and all I’ll say here – for fear of giving anything away! – is that it involves a woman who becomes a regular attendee at public health funerals. ‘Pauper’s funerals’, as they’re often called.

I told my colleague Emma about the storyline, and she said I should write it as it was the sort of thing she’d love to read. I told my friend Thordis about it, and she almost seemed to demand that I write it.

All well and good. But the problem is, I tried writing it earlier this year. Did over 20,000 words of it... And it was heartbreaking. The story I was so pleased with, the idea I was so convinced was a winner, turning to dreary mush at my fingertips.

That was one of two strands of Another Life. I am thinking of having a go at the second strand, and then trying to back and deal with the first again. But I don’t know... Another Life may be the stronger, more original, and possibly more rewarding idea... But Time Engine will almost certainly be the more fun to write.

So, Time Engine? Or Another Life? Or something else entirely...?

I’m not sure. Further pondering is required.

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