Wishing to mark the new year and set the writing tone for 2015, today I wrote the first thousand words of “Plank 3”. Well, they’re not the first words of the book, but they are the first ones I have written. One of the pleasures of being at the start of a new book is that I can write whichever scene I feel like writing. When it’s all waiting to be written, I don’t do it chronologically; instead, I write whatever takes my fancy, and later I start sewing them together and writing the link scenes. It sounds a bit chaotic, and of course a proportion of the earlier-written bits will be dropped later when I realise that they don’t fit, but it’s by far the best way I know for getting over the dreaded “blank page syndrome”.
I have found that you can always write something – and as someone once told me, you can always edit and improve something, but you can’t edit or improve nothing. You might not be in the mood for high drama, but you can do a quick comic or domestic scene instead. If dialogue seems a bit beyond you, do a little descriptive passage, or some background explanation. And it’s generally the case that if you write what you’re in the mood for, you will write it well. Some of my favourite passages from “Fatal Forgery” and “Canary” were written entirely out of context but simply because they were what I was feeling most strongly that day – and I think the commitment shows.
Of course, eventually I will have to knuckle down and write the bits in between, even – as the publication deadline looms – when I don’t feel like it. But by then, there will be enough of the novel in place to give me the encouragement that it is working, that it will all fit together somehow, and that everything is worth writing. But for now, I can pick and choose – and today I picked a Sam and Martha scene that I suspect will come about a third of the way into the book. And – in another trick picked up along the way – I left them mid-sentence, so that when I next start to write, I’ll have a springboard.