I finished my fourth novel, Eight Mile Island, back in June, but what with holidays and a trip to the USA this summer and feeling pretty burned out, I took a break before I started something new. I think you have to do that, give yourself a chance to recover and give your imagination a chance to reset.
I started thinking about Book Five (No title yet!) just about as I was finishing Eight Mile, and I was working on ending the world in grey-goo nanotechnology (I was going to ramp up the pacing so it happened in maybe a week…). I did a little research around nanotech, some background reading…but I kept bumping into nothing when I started writing. Nothing was coming out and screaming, “Write me!”
For a few weeks, I had only a first chapter that wasn’t going anywhere…a good first chapter, with some interesting characters, but nothing else.
Let me tell you, writers block is bad; writers block before you start is even worse. I was going nowhere.
I’m a regular subscriber to a science and technology magazine, and the August edition had an article about a company (Project Blue Seed, if you want to Google it), planning to build a business community offshore of the coast of California in 2014. There was some speculative artwork about building whole cities, maybe whole nations out there in the deep seas…
…and bang, new idea for Book Five! Something that definitely screamed “Write me!” It’s Waterworld, I thought, except it won’t be when I’m finished with it…
About a week later, I was dozing in the back garden on a Saturday afternoon, thinking about not much, when Muse threw up an image of a girl on a jet ski heading towards one of those cities, and then a dozen more ideas followed, then more and more. Suddenly, everything started to feel right, and I started to feel like this is a book I should write.
So Book Five is off and running now, and I thought I’d share some early thought processes with y’all.
I’ve read a few books on writing novels, the ones that tell you to plan every chapter and every scene, create every character and describe them, but my head doesn’t work like that; I like to be surprised by my characters and I think visually anyway. Starting with Eight Mile Island, I use a mind map, brainstorm, spider diagram, whatever they’re calling them this week.
I stick pictures I snag off the internet next to the ideas I have flying around, then post them all to my work in progress board in my ‘office’ where I write.
Here’s the apparently messy result:
First thing to note is there are a LOT of things going on there, and not all of these ideas will end up in the final story.
My WIP board is something I walk past at least twice a day (I keep my work ties on the back of the door in the same room), so I catch the images and words peripherally and let my subconscious work on them, ready for writing after my Day Job. I’ve found it’s a way for me to think about the story all day without working on it consciously.
The quote in the top left, is from SF author James Blish. “Who does it hurt? That’s who the story is about.” It might seem obvious, but it’s a fundamental aspect of probably every story you’ve ever read, and every story you should write as well. The designs in the top right are what got me started, a concept for a “lily pad” floating city. I’m thinking of having a deserted London in there, that’s bottom left, and middle and bottom right are concepts for the inside of some of the cities and my “superboat” that’s an integral part of the story.
So that’s the start of my journey into Book Five. It’s going to be interesting to see how many ideas survive and how many die out by the time I finish and get everything edited!
If you think that might work, and you have room and a spare wall, having one of these boards might be for you – this one is magnetic and a whiteboard, so it’s twice the fun for half the price. For a size reference, the piece of paper in the middle is A3 (420 x 297mm, 16.5 x 11.7 in).