I'm writing a novel. To which the correct response is 'neither am I' (as per Peter Cook).
I used this rejoinder once, when I met Jake Arnott at a party. He was writing 'He Kills Coppers' at the time (neither was I - ha!). He quizzed me on the line's provenance (it must have been obvious it wasn't a product of my own wit, such as it is). Despite its obvious inadequacies in this context, he must have liked it as he used it in the novel, which appeared a few months after our encounter (I don't recall whether the character whose mouth he put it into was an irritating prick or not.)
This had been my one and only involvement in the production of fiction - a marginal one at best - that is, until now. I really am writing a novel. I've decided to make it a thriller. For those who know me this is a bizarre choice - I'm not a great reader of novels and I generally don't like thrillers.
I found myself encouraged to write a book by some of the kind comments posted in response to posts I've put up here. At first, following my interests and my perception of where my own aptitude lay, I considered writing history or biography. But nothing really gelled.
Then suddenly and totally unexpectedly I had an irresistible urge to write fiction - something I was convinced I'd never do. I'm still not taking myself particularly seriously in this task, which is probably why I'm doing a thriller, a genre which I also don't take particularly seriously (I know there are plenty of reasons to give it critical kudos, from Greene to Rankin, but there you are). Anyway, it's a Russian/UK, high finance/low terrorism, sex and lifestyle sort of book. Not too clever.
So why do it? Well the thriller format is proving tremendous fun. If it's half as much fun to read as it is to write then I'll be happy, as will others. But I wonder whether this is a good or bad sign in a novel? A danger of it being overly self-indulgent?
A more practical reason is that the thriller genre is one that insists on plotting and I'm finding my plot a very useful comfort blanket. I just negotiate my path from one plot point to the next, trying to fill in character and description as I go. I've stitched my plot together with the assistance of T who, thankfully, is a thriller reader (she's actually a compulsive reader of novels more generally and so a great help when I'm stuck).
My enjoyment is manifest in the fact that I've written 14,000 words in four days. I gather this is a fair clip (Stephen King manages about 2,000 a day and he's reckoned pretty productive). I've read it all through a couple of times and I'm not inclined to revise it much either, with one major caveat.
I'm worried that I might be using my plot up too quickly, potentially getting the whole thing finished in not much more than 30,000 words (about 70 pages) when I need to get to 80,000 (or about 200 pages) as a minimum (the genre usually demands somewhere between 90,000 to 120,000 words or 225 to 300 pages, so I gather).
However, I think it's important to get my plot out there, give myself a framework. And if the book ends first time round as too short then I'll have to do some backfilling, bulk things up with character and description, put some sawdust in my sausage (or sausage in my sawdust or, indeed, add more sawdust to my existing sawdust or...who knows?)
I may well be posting less as a consequence. However, I am wondering whether I should put some excerpts up to see whether people feel anything other than indifference towards them. We'll see how brave I'm feeling.