It was a touch spare this morning, and I hinted at a story point that will pay off later. Two actually, because I wanted to give things a touch of narrative tension. In retrospect, I may cut it but that will come later on. Some mornings, I go with the flow, and letting things breathe is a little bit indulgent, but you need to breathe.
I finished The Girl On The Train last night, and it works in terms of it’s paring back to a perfect, bone clean thriller. It will be a formula that will appear in varying forms of quality, a template that will see a rash of similarly themed conceits without any real examination as to what made the original such a success. It moved constantly, between multiple viewpoints and it’s characters were duplicitous, unreliable and were magnificent sketches of self-deception and damage. It’s noir, essentially, if you were to define it, with a nod to psychology in that it deals with alcoholism, transference and a few other concepts. It is chockful of reversals and revelations and even the ending itself doesn’t fade out on sunshine and kisses, looking instead to retain the same atmosphere until the final word. You can tell that Paula Hawkins was a journalist in the retention of focus throughout. She also shares the same gift for the portrayal of female damage as Gillian Flynn and Megan Abbott.
It’s strange to read that, whilst working on Lawful Evil, although I can’t say what my book is, truly, until the second draft. The exploratory draft, although working to a story grid, which allows me to hit certain points and meet genre expectations is still a slow walk, a long exhale until my lungs are empty. However, my experience knows when I am meandering a little, but I still get it down anyway. In the next stage, I might read through it and not transcribe it all, a paragraph, a sentence can advance things along and if the scene doesn’t speak to the controlling ideas of the book, then it is cut without hesitation. You cannot be precious about the writing that doesn’t move the story forward or illuminate the theme.
Look at Charles Dickens, and how his stories, his characters were always moving things forward, variations on a theme. In jazz, which I used to think was just noodling until I started playing bass guitar, you work to a common theme and then each instrument is playing variations within that, against one another. It can be as complex as Weather Report or simple like early Miles Davis. Writing can offer that experience, in it’s creation. I see forests of post-it notes outlining every plot point but I know, and have written, from chasing an image or a concept down until I catch it. Sometimes, when it’s on the page, it becomes something else and during the chase, there are insights that go into the book that surprise me.
Sometimes it is about keeping going, building momentum and knowing that you can edit, refine and cut the unnecessary if you need to. I used to believe that the great books I devoured sprung from raw id, thrown into the world with an ease afforded to a gilded few. It takes discipline, effort, a lot of different elements and commitments and those are things you either have within you or learn. Get those things right for you and you’ll produce work every time. Whether that sells is a question I cannot answer yet. When it does, I will let you know. When my first manuscript did not land a publisher, my contemplation of it afforded me a great deal of insight. It was invaluable to me, and informed my writing afterwards. The first book was too heavy on the sexual content but erotica is a wonderful place to develop the conveyance of something primal and refined at once, just that the story meandered a little, details were sent to the sex scenes and then the dramatic elements did not breathe. I’m still working/editing from agent notes on the second book and it’s done from a place of wanting success and focus. The balance between art and commerce is a debate to be had by smarter people than I. Is there a market for your work? That’s the question you should hold off asking until the second draft, just write it and then bring other forces to bear.