With Vessel soon to be making its mark on the Amazon charts, it’s about time I started to think about my next endeavour. Truth be told, I’m way past the thinking stage: my next book is steamrolling ahead with about a third of the first draft complete. Once Vessel goes live, I’ll start posting chapters on here to see what you all think (and I value your contributions immensely), but in the meantime, I want to talk a little about how the book came to be.
With Noah’s Ark, I started at the beginning, set fingers to keyboard and typed. Of course, my writing skills were a little more crude back then—and it shows—but it’s the technique that’s of interest here. I simply had an idea about a man leaving a city devastated by an apocalyptic disaster and I ran with it from there.
For Vessel, I took a more formulaic approach. I documented the chapters one by one, building up a plan for the book. As I worked my way through chapter after chapter, I wrote more detailed notes for the oncoming story. To be honest—and this sounds odd—but I’m not sure it helped. As the book materialised, the story changed—and quite dramatically. The method felt a little stifled, and was ultimately unnecessary. The ongoing notes helped, reminding me of key facts and figures along the way, but forcing the story along a predetermined path had all the fluidity of tar.
My new, as yet untitled work took a step back again. I had an idea about an interplanetary geologist sent on a mission to survey a world deemed capable of supporting human life. I also had some further thoughts about where the story might go, but I kept them loose and hazy, concepts carried by a breeze rather than blueprints etched in diamond. And so far the book has been a much more dynamic writing experience, a journey that I, the writer, am discovering along with the protagonist. We’re in it together, so to speak, wondering what’s awaiting us around the corner. With any luck, whatever it is will be entertaining.
After I’d had this revaluation, I read Stephen King’s insightful On Writing. He clarified my findings, saying that he too likes to journey with his protagonist, that any time he tries to become the master of fate his story become flat and lifeless. And his reasoning was as follows: if you, the writer, knows what’s about to happen, chances are the reader will too. And further to that, if you know what’s going to happen, it’s harder to convince a reader that the protagonist didn’t expect it.
This isn’t to say it’s a technique that works for everyone. It probably isn’t. But it’s working for me. Right now, a third of the way into the book, things are starting to take a turn for the worse, and there’s a whole lot of journey to get through until the end. Will it all work out or will it not? Like the avid reader, I have some ideas of my own, but until I read the words there in black and white, I won’t know for sure. And that’s what makes the writing experience enjoyable for me, and with any luck, the reading experience for you.