Twenty Books In

Last week I delivered the manuscript for my 20th novel.  Twentieth!  It’s hard to believe I’ve written that many.  One question people ask is whether it gets easier and I don’t think it does.  Harder perhaps, thinking up fresh situations that I haven’t explored before.  The process may be more familiar but the core activities of writing: finding characters, developing the story, choosing the words, shaping the material, editing and improving it, are still as challenging and as engaging as ever.  Some books flow more easily, others take a while to uncover.  In my mind I think the making of a novel is a combination of discovery and construction.  It’s like mining for an artefact that is buried and as you dig it out, you clean and sculpt and colour it until it feels complete.  I’ve no idea whether the ‘mining’ metaphor rings true for other people but it doesn’t matter.  As practitioners we all find out what methods work for us, whether we plot in advance or just start writing, when we edit, whether research precedes the writing or is done on the hoof, dipping into the internet as we go, whether we count the words or the pages, if we write chronologically or weave collages together, if we use particular software to help us with structure and continuity, whether we read aloud or dictate our work.  When I start afresh with each book I still need that leap of faith, a suspension of the critical voice that tries to undermine my efforts.  And when the book is written I have the all too familiar lurch of confidence while I wait for feedback, maybe even greater these days as with each new title there’s the hope it will be an improvement on what came before.  The buzz I get from writing remains just as strong and rewarding as it always was and I can’t imagine ever wanting to stop.