Can you remember what you did when you started on the novel you’re working on? If you’ve finished more than one, do you have a way you like to prepare? Are they always the same or are they different for each project?
Last week I wrote about reaching the end of the tunnel and emerging, blinking and relieved, with a finished book. Now, of course, I find myself at the beginning of another. Here’s what I do.
I’ve got a working title for my next novel: Echo. It started as a subject I’d always wanted to explore, then a week ago formed into an idea that demanded to be written. Now I’m quarrying for the beginnings of my story.
This is what I’m doing. I’m hunting around Amazon and LibraryThing to see who else has tackled the subject, getting acquainted with all the various ways writers have handled it so that what I do will be new.
I know what I want the story’s atmosphere to be, so I’m delving through the less-familiar albums in my music collection to build a playlist. Some of these will become a soundtrack for important sequences or characters, capturing a vital essence or even just a moment.
At this stage, anything is possible. Ideas tumble out of everywhere. A chance headline seen on someone’s paper while travelling on the Tube. A TV programme glimpsed while persuading the DVD to work. A conversation with a friend. A book cover that startlingly would be perfect if it had been designed for Echo.
Each of these could drastically change the way the book develops. This is where storymaking seems like serendipity and fragile chance. As much about random collisions as about research.
And so what I’m doing most, as I stand at the edge of the tunnel, is watching and listening.
Tell me what you do to start writing a novel