Sorting the Good from the Bad

The cure for cats in the vegetable garden?

I once read that the real problem that the allies had during the second Gulf War was information overload. They had satellites, men on the ground, aircraft, communications intelligence – so much data was coming in, that they couldn’t focus. Yes, the weaponry was superior, but they kept hitting the wrong targets because analysis was taking so long, the military were going for key objectives when they’d already moved on. They had information overload. It didn’t get better until someone sensible cut some of the inputs, so the analysts could focus more on discrete chunks of data.

Well, for this author, one of the worst problems is idea overload. I’m suffering from it right now.

I have one book that I have to write for middle of June. It’s the follow up and finale to my trilogy on the Hundred Years War, and it’s already working well in my mind. God knows how it’ll translate to paper, but that’s one of the joys of writing. You never know how things will finish up. Some of my very best work came from ideas I wasn’t sure about.

Okay, so the problem.

This is what a 580 page novel at the edit stage looks like!

This is what a 580 page novel at the edit stage looks like!

I’m currently working on a crime story. I want to write the sequel to ACT OF VENGEANCE because that was enormous fun. I have to write a new Baldwin/Simon story. I have an idea for a collection of Sir Richard de Welles short stories too. But I now have a brilliant concept for a whole new series of books.

Five separate ideas plus the commissioned story. Each will take a good five to six months to write.  Each will require lots of research and thought. So, which to attack first?

The real top-selling authors (Connelly, Grisham, Deaver etc) have a pretty easy time of it. Many write series books, and write one a year. For the majority of writers, there isn’t that luxury of choice. We have to constantly search for that new idea that grabs us and go with it. So, how should you make your decision about the next book to write?

In my case it’s this: I sit down with a number of sheets of A4 paper and start writing the first chapter of each. I write a fairly detailed synopsis of each so I know roughly where each book will go. After that, I LEAVE THEM ALONE!

I get on with sorting diary meetings, I walk the hound, I edit past works and review other people’s books. I cook and clean. I tidy my desk. This time around, I’ll crack on with the book I’m in the middle of. However, and crucially, I do not look at my synopses for a week or more. Then, when I come to them fresh, I have a better gut-feel for which is going to work for me, which will be the fastest to write, and which will give me the best chance of getting a publisher interested.

For the last week or two I’ve been putting down a series of synopses. Today and tomorrow I’ll be finishing them before cracking on with the next book I’ve already begun. I find it does me a huge amount of good to have that separation. It’s the same as when I complete a first draft. I work through it intensely, and then put it aside. I need to get away from the MS for at least three weeks to clear my head, so when I go back to edit, I can do so with a fresh mind. It makes spotting errors much easier and helps guarantee a strong story.

Hopefully next week I’ll know where to go after June!

Happy writing, folks. If you have any points or problems you’d like me to discuss, please let me know. It may not make it to the blog, but if not I’ll try to write to you and explain why, and hopefully answer your question at the same time.

By the way, don’t forget that I have video hints on writing on my YouTube channels. You can find me here. There are videos on writing for aspiring authors, for students, and a little series of clips with me wittering about my own books. It’s all good fun – if amateur!

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