There are many aspects to writing a novel — and the more novels I write, the more I realise that each novel finds its own way. One of the most important things a writer can do is to “listen to” the novel. Yes, I know that’s skating up to the edge of a mystical explanation of the whole process of creativity, but that isn’t really what I’m saying; the writer merely needs to be aware that what works with one type of novel does not work with others. One needs to be flexible and to allow the work to find its own pattern. In these whisperings, if we listen carefully enough, is the secret to creative success.
I’ve known this for quite a while and, yet, I have to relearn it with every novel I write!
The Dummy has been, to be honest, proving difficult. The story and characters are developing in outline wonderfully but the sheer scale of it was worrying me. I’m not afraid of big projects, but their marketability is, at best, hampered by their size. And so I had to decide whether to be self-indulgent and go for one huge book, or opt for the more realistic compromise.
As already mentioned, I now know that I will have to write it as a series of books. I’ve also decided to approach the writing of the outline more sensibly; instead of outlining the full series (which in itself would be a novel-length project) I now plan to write book one before moving on to outline book two. There are disadvantages to this, but it is a far more workable approach — and it means I can get on with the actual writing a lot sooner than anticipated.
So, The Dummy has now become the series name for the books. Book one of the series will now be called The Gods Do Not Endow. This will cover the period of Bobby Boran’s (the dummy’s) life from birth during the First World War to somewhere around the General Strike of 1926. It will still be a big book, which is what I want, but it will be by no means as big as the single book project would have been! Naturally.
With these decisions made, I feel far more comfortable with the project. It was already a pleasure, despite my concerns (that’s just part and parcel of writing), but now I’m truly excited about the possibilities.
To finish, I thought I might share with you some of the websites I’ve encountered whilst researching The Gods Do Not Endow. There’s a wealth of fascinating material out there — and without this novel I may not have encountered half of it. Another reason why I enjoy being a writer!
- Old Asylums — recollections and social history of mental illness.
- History of Socialism in Great Britain. Wikipedia.
- The Royal Engineers Museum — on the Western Front (my great-grandfather was a Royal Engineer.)
- The Long, Long Trail — the British Army during the Great War.
- First World War Glossary.