It’s been three months since my last major wobble with this book. When I put it away before moving, I wrote myself a note:
It’s not going to be as bad as you think. I promise.
And you will see what you need to do. You’re coming to this after a break of time and a change of space. This will give you room to see what needs changing…
You might not work on it at all in March: that’s fine. But you must pick it up again in April. Start with a read through; look for the gaps, in the first instance – not the physical omissions, but the thin parts, the bits you’ve been telling yourself you’ll get away with… your focus for the moment should be on adding substance, adding depth, making your characters and your setting more solid.
I spent the last couple of weeks doing that. And I worked out what is wrong with this book.
It is the reason why I always have trouble with writing books in this series (based on a sample of one, so far): it’s about people quietly trying to get on with their own lives while drama happens around them.
And writing it from Colette’s point of view accentuates the problem, because she’s always taken minding her own business to a fine art, and has always had to be dragged into plot by main force (in the first book, by Peter and then by Lydia). Consequently, I’ve got at least four other characters’ plots going on which are, at the moment, very boring, because she’s either giving people space to deal with their own stuff or just doesn’t care. And then she tends to suffer in silence rather than do anything about it. In this book I’m going to get her to the point where she does do something about it, but I need to keep the interim suffering in silence from being too tedious.
The problem is, of course, not so much that she doesn’t care, as that I don’t. Because I am the one who is writing this thing, and I do need to tie them up a little better than I have at present. I’ve worked out how to inject some suspense into one of the four subordinate plots, and another two are things that she really ought to care about because they have a major influence on her life, and actually one needs some work and the other is better than I think it is. The fourth can and should fade into the background, I think.
I also wrote:
We’ll talk later about the deadline for this. I’ll tell you this: it isn’t September. This one is too important to rush. Take your time; get it good.
And I still have no publication date. What’s different now is the fact that this doesn’t seem to be worrying me at all. I think I’ve adapted to this weird timelessness in the air. This book will come out when it’s ready, and that’s the only logical way to schedule it.
I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, my existing two books are still free.