Thursday, 20 February 2014

Writers live twice.

“Writers live twice.”
—Natalie Goldberg

So I am committed now to writing a series. You may have heard me banging on about this before. The Chupplejeep Mysteries will be the over-arching title. I hope it is a cross between Alexander McCall Smith and Arvinda Adiga and it’s a lighthearted detective series. Why am I thinking about the ins and outs of writing a series? Well because I need distraction from the laborious task of editing Poison in the Water. Yes, I have started that labour of love (It can be called nothing else) and quite frankly I really feel like I am re-writing the whole novel. It’s a deep clean edit with 66 chapters (at present) spanning over 86,000 words. I am at chapter ten. It’s a bit of a milestone for me. I managed to read the prologue out at my last writing group session and it was received well. Well just about. It had some flaws which I have spent the last 24 hours sorting out, but I am there now. I realised I haven’t read out in writing group for ages – I had almost forgot the benefits. Perhaps reading out a bit more will motivate me to continue with the editing.

I have got to say I kind of have a love hate relationship with editing. Half of me loves it- I feel like I am truly achieving something; developing the characters further and making the plot a bit slicker. The other half of me detests it. I look at how many words are left to edit after spending one hour on less than 500 words and I want to cry. I check my sales ranking for Bittersweet and Goa Traffic for some motivation and keep at it. Why am I doing this? I ask myself.  I’ll get through it eventually. I’ll have edited Poison so much I will be sick of the book when its ready to go to the publishers!  Anyway as usual I digress!

Back to the perils of writing a series! Firstly I have realised I can’t even think about completing book one (and I mean completing, completing as in ready to send to publishers) without having written book two. Why is this? Because I need to get to know my characters. The ones that will keep reappearing and I think the only way I can really do this is if I write another book with them in it (see more on this below!).

There has to also be a common thread that binds the books together. For me it’s personal character progression. At the start of book 1 Chupplejeep is afraid of commitment. His girlfriend Christabel is desperate to marry. By the end of this book he will have made a decision as to what to do- all whilst solving crime mind!

In book two – which I have a provisional title for – The Body in the Bath- well in book two the relationship has to progress – If Chupplejeep decides to get married he will have the worry of the cost of a wedding on his shoulders. Perhaps the thought of having kids. If he decides to stay single then will Christabel leave him?

And if you are writing two books in a series why not write three! Chupplejeep is not going to be a one hit wonder. I am thinking at least five books in the series if not more. But I don’t think I need book three just now! Although I am toying with an idea of a jetty boat – typically Goan. I also want to set some familiarities for the the reader. For example in the first book, Under the Coconut Tree, I want the body to be discovered under the tree. The second book- the body in the bath- is self explanatory as to where the body is found but I like that idea that all criminal acts take place in relation to the title of the book. So perhaps a body by the jetty in book three?! I think these common threads are what keep readers interested. It is also these little nuances in familiarity which make readers come back for more. We all like something we are familiar with.

Chupplejeep and his sidekick will also be the main attractions of the series and in order to do this I need to perfect their characterisation…. In order to straighten out what I want for my characters I have to really get in their minds. Perhaps I could write a blog in their names! Gosh that would be a good marketing idea as well. Or perhaps I should keep a diary for them instead- who knows when I’m famous (ha!) I could publish their diaries as well!  So writing book two before I have completed book one will delve deeper in the each characters psyche but I need to do more than just this. I’m thinking in depth personality questionnaires. Living a day in the life of Chupplejeep – getting right inside his head! What would he talk about at a party? Who would be want to talk to and what would he say? What are his favourite words to use? All of this needs to be written down dissected and analysed without the characters seeming to ‘made up’. Hmmm it sounds daunting. I think I’ll get back to Poison in the Water now.

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