After several months of writing, including a few weeks in which I feared I was never going to get there, I today reached the end of my latest book. It’s a standalone novel which is loosely connected to THE 13TH HORSEMAN, but that’s not important right now. What I’d like to talk to you about today is the writing process and, more specifically, the rewriting process.
You see, writing a book is a lot like making a sandwich. Normally when I make a sandwich I have a pretty good idea of what I want to put between the slices of bread. Similarly, when I write a book, I’ve got a good idea of what’s going to happen between the front and back cover.
With this latest book, though, I didn’t really have much of an idea what was going to go in it. I knew vaguely what the concept was, and I decided for a change just to bash on from there. So, getting back to the sandwich analogy, I began slapping ingredients down on the bread. I knew I wanted this to be the biggest, most exciting sandwich I’d ever made, so I thought of all the things I like and shoved them in pretty much at random.
I mixed pickle with egg, and coated it all with chocolate spread. I kept adding new layers, and new flavours. Ham? Check. Wham bars? Check. Marshmallows and mushrooms mixed with red onion jam? Check, check and check. I chucked it all on. I buttered the bread, using far too much butter and spreading it on with a shoe. And what I was left with was not a good sandwich. It was a sandwich which should never have been.
Fortunately, it was a first attempt at the sandwich. Now I can take a few days to chew it over and decide which flavours work together and which don’t. I can reduce the amount of some ingredients, and remove some completely. I can add other, more complimentary flavours. I can cut back on the butter, and avoid spreading it on with a shoe. The second sandwich will be infinitely better than the first sandwich, and each new version of the sandwich I create will be an improvement on the one before. By the third or fourth sandwich I should just be sprinkling on some herbs, or repositioning the tomato. Little changes, but ones which will have a sizeable effect on the finished product.
And, um, that’s like writing books. But, you know, without the red onion jam.
To celebrate the fact that I’ve finally finished the first draft (or sandwich, if you want to drag the analogy out) I am going to reveal the full title of the book I’ve been writing. Are you ready? Here it comes. The title of my second standalone novel is…
THE LOST BOOK OF EVERYTHING.*
* EDIT: Actually, that’s a lie. It has now changed to THE BOOK OF DOOM. Which is much better.