I am a writer. A scribbler. A scrivener. A wanna-be author. No matter what else I think inventing stories is just something that my brain does. I do not even need to be conscious of the fact. My brain is intent on coming up with another tale, whether I like it or not. The only choice I seem to have is whether or not I commit one of these preposterous anecdotes to paper. To write or not to write, that is the question?
It was my intention to take some time off from the keyboard and maybe look at doing some marketing, but my brain has other ideas. It keeps coming up with this notion of writing a book in a different way. You see, even though I said before that I was not actually doing any writing the fact is that I was deluding myself. I am always writing. 90% of what I write is in my head. I think that because I am physically disabled with impaired mobility I have, over time, come to spend an awful lot of time enjoying my imagination. In real life I was never a World Cup winning football player or a rock star or someone who could go for long walks in the wilderness and commune with nature, but I always have been able to in my mind’s eye. I have lived countless life times in my head.
The many stories that swirl around the cave of my skull were not the reason for me starting another outline for another book. I have recently re-read all of my Sorrow Song Trilogy. I did this not out of some egotistical need to remind myself how good I am but rather to see where I could improve. I realised that I have adopted a form of writing that is both very traditional and very recognisable. My books open with a hook, that is, with a piece of prose designed to catch the reader’s fancy and make them want to read more. In the Sorrow Trilogy each book opens with a violent encounter. Eugenica begins with an assassination preceded by a conversation that sets the mood. Mesozoic has the scientists watching a predator killing another animal. Finally, The Queen of the Mountain features the most graphically violent of all encounters to open the adventure with. Each book then follows a very linear and well-trod path to the conclusion, usually with a chapter at the end, just after the climax, to clear up any loose ends. Yes, I am a writer who has an unoriginal formula. A bit like Michael Crichton really. He had great ideas but always wrote the same basic story; technology getting out of control.
Nothing seismic happened after concluding this review of my work. It was far more subtle than that. One day, on a computer not far, far away, I started looking at the conventions of the novel. I examined how it had developed and the different ways in which it now presented itself. Style over substance has never appealed to me. I still hold firm to the principle that a good book is defined by the story it contains, not the technical brilliance of the author. Yes, a well written book is a joy to read but if the story is crap then so is the book no matter how gifted the writer. I recently read a book by a very successful author and found it to be woeful. There was nothing wrong with the technicalities of the book, the writer was clearly proficient in that department, it was the story itself that was at fault; it was pointless. The characters were bland, and the plot held no surprises. The only reason I could see for it being published is because this lacklustre effort carried the name of a top ten author on it so obviously, enough of their readers were going to buy it simply for that reason alone, which probably suggested there was still a profit to be made even from something that was clearly poor in terms of quality. The magic of marketing eh?!
Then something seismic happened! What if I subverted expectation? Instead of writing the linear novel, what if I wrote a story that did not begin at the beginning? Okay, just to be clear, none of my stories actually begin at the beginning. You see, the process of writing includes creating a universe from which the main action, that which is captured in the finished book, is distilled, but it is only a portion of everything that went before and, sometimes, what comes after. I have described some of this process in my accounts of writing The Queen of the Mountain Kingdom if you wish to know more. Anyway, the point is that, as the writer, I make the decision where the book starts in all of this background information. I then follow the linear path to the end, throwing in a few twists and turns because a bendy road is much more enjoyable than a straight road. But what if I did not do that this time? What if, instead, I move the middle to the beginning, make the beginning the consequence of having a middle, and put the climax nowhere near the conclusion? Yeah, you read that right! Subversion (I am nodding my head in a knowing fashion at this point).
Well, that is my idea. Technically, it is very challenging. Putting the traditional middle section at the beginning does not seem to be a problem. The difficulty, I think, is maintaining the tension and the reader’s interest after they get over the shock of starting the story in a place that they did not expect. What come’s next? More subversion of expectation, only this has to be rather subtle. One of the themes of my new story offered itself as a guide down this new path. I kind of like it but I am not sure yet if the reader will understand it, not due to a lack of ability to make sense of it on their part but rather a need for me to avoid being too obscure. In my head it makes sense. I can see what I want to create. The dilemma for every person who feels creative is always realising the vision in their imagination as perfectly as possible in the real world. It often never succeeds.