I've just written the closing chapter of Gunboy's sequel, 'Disconnect' (Working Title). And it's the first book I've written from notes to novel without a screenplay in between.
Well to start, I realised I can't read when I'm writing. I took a break mid way through and enjoyed Stephen King's Dark Tower, and it screwed me up. When I went back to it, I found myself emulating the great Mr. King in the way a four year old emulates Ironman.
I now have two terrible chapters which need to be re-written. They just aren't mine and they certainly aren't Mr. King's.
So what went wrong?
Both previous manuscripts, Gunboy (GB) and Save Our Souls (SOS) had been planed meticulously, and were completed works in their own right. As screenplays. Characters and pacing were fully formed through dialogue and action. I only had to write what was going on in their heads (for the most part) and fill out the stage direction.
All I had for Disconnect was an eight page treatment, a plot outline - whatever you want to call it.
I didn't have character plans, I didn't know who I was going to meet along the way. Looking back at it now, I was like the indie director who hit it big with a small movie and then got given the keys to Hollywood. I was the kid locked in the sweet shop, and I gorged myself.
I'm in Europe, I'm in the USA and back in the UK with dozens of new supporting character. Was it too big? Was I ready for it? Hell yes, this story has been banging around my head since the late nineties. All I'm saying is that because I jumped from GB to SOS, which were ready to write I jumped headfirst into this one without giving it the due diligence it deserved.
I had a blast writing it, I knew the beginning and end. I poured gasoline over everything in between and threw in a lit match. What's not good is consistency. Across the board, decisions changed. If I went back and read it now, I'm guessing at least three main characters have hair which changes colour, chapter to chapter.
If I came to a stop, I skipped it. In the first eight chapters I only wrote the odd numbers, then I went back to do the evens. I stayed with one character up to a point then swung back to bring the other into the fold. This way I kept true to the character I was writing, and in my humble opinion it worked for the better.
What didn't work so well - it's rough. Very rough. It's basically dialogue and stage direction. But I get to do a second draft - and after I've edited SOS. Skipping chapters seemed like a great idea at the time, but now I'm sitting on one and three quarters left to write. They need to be in there, but they're secondary characters whose actions feed into the results. I thought by writing the results I would have an easier time getting into them. Did it work out that way? No. I'm stuck with skeleton characters with subplots so thin they could be anorexic. It's back to the white board.
What have I learned?
P.P.P.P.P.P. Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Stuart Stancombe told me that back in the early noughties, bless his wavy blonde hair and blue eyes. Oh how embarrassing it was, at twenty to find out my mum had a crush on my boss. But you know what? He was right, thanks Stu - should have listened to you.
Before Disconnect can be read by anyone other than myself, I'm going to have to read from start to finish and create character profiles. Note down all the inconsistencies, and all on top of what you should be doing anyway on a second draft.
Useful? Probably not.
GB should be out around February next year, I'd keep you posted - but the publishing game anxiety with brief moments of fear and near misses. It's like playing dodge ball naked and with a cricket ball. You get glimpses and teases of things moving and then the brakes are slammed on. Still, I have a cracking cover and the final edit begins next week.
I'm looking forward to that. I think I got off pretty lucky with the first round of edits, I don't profess to be Mark Twain. Plus I've not read GB since April, so I'm guessing I'm going to hate it right about now. Time to make it as good as it can be, and then it's out there in the world. If the anxiety I've felt over the summer is anything to go by, I may have a heart attack by the time gets listed on Amazon. At least that will boost sales right?
Catch you soon.