Bullet Point Barrage

We are out here in Bristol for a few days:

[From my Instagram Stories.]

It is cool and dry this morning, but until now the weather had been a lot like London:

[From my Instagram Stories.]

And friends have been cooking up a storm:

[From my Instagram Stories.]

In down time sneakily I have been considering – and writing – a bit more of the next great project: the novel that will eventually be. The start of a new one is always terrifying. By coincidence, here are other seemingly perennial Twitter questions I noticed recently:

I thought now is as good a time as any to address them. There is no “template” way to do this; we will all do it differently. Personally I do sort of outline – at the very outset, very generally – and then at some point I “wing” it.

It is chaos initially; but that chaos begins, of course, from nothing at all. I first start to frame the entire story GENERALLY in brief paragraphs. On the “blank pages” I throw down ideas bouncing around in my head and try to give them some form in a sequential breakdown of what I think MAY happen; it is never everything, but it comes to constitute the outer frame within which the novel is filled in.

So early on I am essentially “the king of bullet points.” Gradually over the months to follow I enlarge and develop those core ideas. For example, you are seeing here FOR THE FIRST TIME, bullet pointed ideas that will probably appear in the novel:

[Sneak peek into unnamed next novel.]

I end up with maybe twenty to thirty pages of such haphazard paragraphs. Over time I will keep a few much as I had “brainstormed” them, most I will modify some to a lot, and I will also discard others entirely as being just not right or even – in my opinion – stupid. It is always an evolving process.

My “outline” is those scattershot points of varying depths and complexities. The bullets are removed over time as ideas begin to merge together. While adding more and more details, the story develops a flow from which chapters arise.

“Ok, friends, so what are we going to do today?” is eventually where matters find themselves as having broadly outlined the tale I make a habit at the start of each new writing session of “asking” characters what “they” will be doing. That is where I begin, I suppose, to “wing” it: I let “the characters,” uh, theoretically “drive” me on. “They” – all of their doings and based on what I know of “their” personalities – come to fill in the gaps amidst and between all of those bulleted ideas that form the core basis for the book.

[Distances, in paperback. Photo by me, 2019.]

Once “they” – the characters – have “finished,” I have a draft of sorts. From there, I start adding more description and background. Once I feel satisfied with all that, I have the manuscript… that I then clean up further in order to produce one that I believe is ready for proofreaders.

Based on what I have experienced writing previously, all of that takes me between about one to two years. It all also depends on the length of the novel. I don’t expect this latest one – another “massive” one – to be anywhere near finished before at least late 2021 (and that is being optimistic).

But all of that is just me, of course.

Have a good weekend, wherever you are. 🙂