A while ago, in one of those masochistic moods when I thought I would never finish “Fatal Forgery”, I watched a documentary about the Scottish author Ian Rankin. (I say masochistic because it is just cruel to hear about someone writing their 31st bound-to-be-bestseller when you’re struggling to finish your first little effort.) One thing I was interested to learn about was his writing routine – not the day-to-day stuff about where he writes and what biscuits he eats, but the more over-arching structure of writing an entire book. And it turns out that Mr Rankin is very regular. Throughout the year he gathers newspaper clippings and articles and other bits and pieces that intrigue him and he puts them into a folder. Each November, he gets out the folder and uses the material to help him write a very rough first draft of his novel – taking about eight weeks. He then hones and edits and cuts and rewrites like a demon, finishing six months later with aforesaid next blockbuster.
I’m telling you all of this because, frankly, I need a routine. As you know, I am now working on my next Sam Plank adventure – but I’ve forgotten how to do it! As “Fatal Forgery” took me four years, I obviously need to streamline the process a bit. I have already done lots of Regency research for that, so I’m starting from a good springboard, but what do I do now? I have the basic plot in mind, and I’m gradually assembling my cast of characters, but in between the research I keep thinking of bits I would actually like to write. Can I jump ahead like this, writing a paragraph here and there before I really know what’s going on? Did I do that last time, or did I finish all of my research before putting pen to paper? Perhaps I’ll have it cracked by the sixth Sam Plank adventure but for now, chaos.