A starting point

Where do you start with writing a book?

I haven't answered a reader's question for quite a while - apologies - but just that inquiry came in a couple of weeks ago, and it chimes with me at the moment, so let's give it a go.

The problem is that there's no easy answer.  I suppose the way I think of it is that it all starts with the idea.  And that can be anything; a place (as with Evil Valley), a character (as with Dan for the whole of the tvdetective series), or a plot (as with The Judgement Book and The Death Pictures). 

Then you get into a whole period of agonising as to whether the idea is good enough, interesting enough, has sufficient about it to sustain it for a whole book.  My view on that one is simple, if strange. 

Treat your idea like a relationship.  Give it time. Don't go thinking this is the one, just because you've only recently met and it's all new and exciting.  Spend some time together, and if the attraction keeps growing, if you're still in love with it, go for it.

Well, almost!  The temptation at that point is to start writing, but maybe that's not such a good idea, however understandable.  These book things take some writing - they average more than 100,000 words - and require months to do.  If you just run at it, you'll probably end up with a great waffling lump of words which has missed some of the key points you need to get in.

I hate to sound like the teachers of our old schooldays, but you need a plan.  And that usually takes me months in itself - to make sure the characters and backdrops are convincing and that the plot goes where it should, with plenty of red herrings and sub plot going on to keep the poor reader guessing.

When you've done all that, it's time to get writing.  You'll know if it's working out because you'll look forward to every sentence you write, and the characters will follow you around, even when you're not actually writing.  And keep going, and then...

Comes the real hard work, I'm afraid.  The re-writing.  And more re-writing, and then even more.  I usually do about seven re-writes of the tvdetective books.  Some lucky authors do fewer, others do more.

And don't worry about how the book starts. I was only thinking this week about how scary a simple blank sheet can be.  Just get going is my advice. The opening usually changes with the re-writing, or at least it does for me.  Not one of my books has been published with the same opening lines that I started it with, and some have changed perhaps even a dozen times.

But the key thing in all this - enjoy it.  Writing is a hobby, a job, but also an addiction. I struggle to think of a time before I was writing, how I filled my days, and more importantly - how I ever felt fulfilled.

So go for it, and good luck!  You never know where the journey will take you.  If you'd told me, five years ago that I'd now have five books published, have written a play which is currently in rehearsal, and be invited to teach writing at so many wonderful places I'd have laughed myself silly. 

It's a new world - and a wonderful one - and I'm so glad and grateful to have found it.  I'd thoroughly recommend joining it.

Don't forget, if you want to ask a question about the tvdetective books, or any area of my writing or teaching work, or even the play, you can get in touch via the contact page of the site - www.thetvdetective.com/contact.html