Monday, May 21, 2007

Living in the Next Book

(But first a beer digression. I've been buying Kokanee, a really pleasant, mild lager from British Columbia, almost a Koelsch. Had one tonight and felt so happy that I then had a Pilsner Urquell, which I don't usually buy, but I did last weekend. This one had gone skunky. Blech. Unsettled my stomach and left a nasty taste in my mouth. [I had to drink most of it, just to be sure, you see.] I was soooo tempted to, um, cleanse my palate with a third beer, but I managed not to. I'm almost proud of myself. Fortunately, I had made myself a pot of Serious Tea, and that seems to be helping.)

As I work my way toward finishing Time and the Soldier, I'm daydreaming increasingly about plot and character details of a planned forthcoming novel. It's not in fact going to be the next one I work on, but that sounded better as the post title.

Trollope talked about this in his autobiography. I downloaded a text version of his autobiography and tried to find that in there but couldn't, and I hope I'm remembering this correctly from when I read the book (in, gasp!, printed form) many years ago.

As I remember, Trollope said that he would start the next book right after finishing the preceding one. Perhaps he even said that it would be the very next day. He said it wasn't hard to do that because he had been living with (I think that was the phrase) the characters in the next book while finishing the preceding one, and so he already knew them well. That struck me as wonderful when I read it.

Years, or decades, ago, I used to daydream about books I planned to write, but it wasn't realistic. I was really daydreaming about having written them and being a success as a result. Nowadays, it seems more concrete. I'm not imagining the future book as a finished product. Rather, I'm thinking about the details that will go into it. Doing that keeps me excited about that future book, even while I'm immersed deeply in the current one, and it makes the future book seem more real and makes me feel that, like Trollope, I'll be ready to dive right into it when the time comes.

Or so I hope.


Bella Stander said...

Trollope would write for a set length of time each day. If he finished writing one book and still had time to spare, he'd start the next one.

He certainly knew his characters intimately, though sometimes his prose lacked polish. THE WAY WE LIVE NOW (his greatest novel, I think) begins unprepossessingly: "Let the reader be introduced to Lady Carbury."

David said...

Three hours every morning, wasn't it? Four pages per hour, 250 words per page. Something like that. And then off to the Post Office, to change the world!

I certainly agree about THE WAY WE LIVE NOW. I really loved that book.

Chris said...

I find the difficulty lies in not allowing those new, fresh characters to tempt you away from your WIP before it's finished. Because when you're in the thrall of that fantastic new idea, your WIP starts to look a little rough around the edges.

David said...

Fortunately, that hasn't happened to me so far. I am feeling impatient, though -- eager to be off on that next writing adventure. That amounts to the same problem; I have to be careful not to stint on the work that remains on the WIP.

Chris said...

That, I think, is what wives are for. Whenever I hurry through the ending (or the beginning, or simply skimp somewhere in the middle with a bit of fuzzy logic), Katrina is sure to call me on it. It's nice to have someone smarter than you are reading your stuff before it gets sent out into the world. In my case, I know it's what keeps me honest, when all I want is to leap into that Next Great Project.

David said...

Unfortunately, while Leonore is a wonderful proofreader on the level of fine detail, she's not as wonderful on the level of plot or pacing. Her own writing and reading tend toward character orientation, and while she enjoys reading some plot-based fiction, she's not skilled at analyzing a plot and its problems.

For that matter, time-travel stories drive her nuts. I'm afraid she'll have trouble dealing with Time and the Soldier.

Travis Erwin said...

I agree with Chris. Sometimes it's not easy to fight the temptation to jump ship to fresh new characters and ideas when I've started to get sick of spending time with one I'm currently vested in.

David said...

It's interesting which posts result in ongoing discussions, and which ones don't.

Conversations like this one have shown me an unexpected benefit of having this blog. I thought it would only be a place for me to drone on about myself and spout off about this and that. Instead, it's brought me the perspectives of other writers.

Which, in retrospect, I guess I should have expected, but I didn't.