As I said the last time, the best way to get over the first novel jitters is to start writing the next one. Seeing as how at my writing speed a first draft takes roughly three months and to hear back about a submission (even just to get a rejection) is about the same, it feels a good use of the time. It keeps my hands busy, anyway.
It's been such a long time since I've written a new novel. There have been short stories, certainly, which are very different creatures but I haven't written a novel that wasn't Machinations since...(doesn't bother to check)... 2007? 2008? That's quite a long time.
I can honestly say I've been looking forward to it. I learned a lot from writing and editing Machinations and have learned even more just by reading other people's books. This new book feels like it'll be Freeman 2.0. I want to see how much I've improved. Now, I don't expect writing this one to be any easier, it'll still need a first draft, a second, a third, just so long as it doesn't take me as long as Machinations did.
This story is very different from Machinations, there are fewer characters, the world is bigger, there are things I can do with it that I couldn't with Machinations, simply because to do them in Machinations would have broken it (there are also things I could do in Machinations but not get away with in this new one). The rules to this book are different.
So how do I do it?
Let's start with the title since I can't just keep calling it 'this book'. It's called Neo Noir. I've had this story in my head almost as long as Machinations and I've been aching to commit it to paper.
For the first week I sat with a notepad jotting down all my thoughts; characters, backgrounds, story, history, cool scenes I'd like to include and a chapter-by-chapter plot layout. This was simply downloading the pictures and feelings in my head onto the page and seeing how they looked. Sometimes thoughts that work in your head don't look the same on paper. You see what else needs to be there for the story to make sense. If I want a scene like this, then I need a character like this. And they'd need to have done that, that and that beforehand or it won't work for the reader. If I drop a hint to it around here, then it'll be even better and more of a surprise.
Admittedly for the layout, my notes were a lot more specific for the first few chapters than they were closer to the end. For me, this is fine. I need to get to know my characters as I write them and will have a better idea of how the later chapters work after having seen the characters go through the events of the initial ones.
Then it's writing time. 2,000 words a day is the target. Do that for three months and you have a novel. They might not be the words you'll have in the final version but you're learning as you go. Little ideas occur to you as you write, you knew your character had scars but where exactly are they? You knew there were propaganda posters everywhere but what do they actually say? And why do they say that? The important thing at this stage is to just get the story down. You can change things later.
2,000 words a day takes me roughly an hour and a half. Sometimes I know what the scene is meant to be, sometimes I'm just making it up as I go. A lot of the time it's all just waffle and background and exposition that will never make it into the final draft but it's all occurring to me in real-time and it helps to get it all down.
So how am I getting on? I'm currently at 35,000 words. So, maybe, a third of the way through the story. That's just based on the average novel being 100,000 words long. I honestly don't know how long the story is going to be. I just know it won't be as long as Machinations. This 35k words took me to the end of my specific notes, so I've spent the weekend sat back with my notepad again, taking what I've learned and applying it to the next 35,000. 'What happens next?' I ask myself. And 'What just happened?' Already I can see what I'd change and that goes in the notepad too. Maybe by the time I get to 70,000 words I'll have to sit back down for a second introspective and start thinking about what the end will be. I already know what the end end will be but not some of the details. I don't know how the villain is going to die, for instance, or even if he does die. Or if he does who will kill him? And how will that feed into the wider story?
Guess I'll just have to find out.