Monday, 15 June 2009

The Amazing Morphing Literary Concept

There's been an itch I've been, er, itching to scratch for several months. The seed of an intriguing idea for a novel formed last autumn and really caught hold - I was desperate to play with it, see how it developed. But I knew it had to be stuck on the back burner while other, more pressing projects, were completed.

It was still in limbo until the middle of last week, when the moment arrived when I could ignore said itch no longer. You know what I mean. So I opened up a fresh word document and typed in the title - I'll call it Mr Stone here, for the title kind of gives the game away at this stage - stuck 'by John Quirk' below it and scrolled down to the top of page two. And away I went.

I wrote just over a thousand words, and it did me the world of good. First and foremost, it helped brush off some cobwebs. I'd hit a bit of a trough, as what should be the final draft of The Manx Giant has been slow in coming together and I've been feeling a bit rusty. It also reinforced my early belief that the core idea for Mr Stone was a solid one.

However, as the word count climbed, I found myself repeatedly returning to read what I'd written. I wasn't sure why this was, until it slapped me across the face with a dodgy kipper. The concept for Mr Stone was unusual - it would involve taking the bare bones of the central idea, but with no plotting, treatment or notes, and researching that idea as the protagonist does in the book. The bottom line would be that I learned what happened next at the same time as the protagonist did.

This was the first time I'd come up with what I guess is termed in the dark recesses of the publishing world as 'literary fiction'. No, it's not a term I'm comfortable with either, but in broad terms it would relate to character and theme rather than plot, and it wasn't to be a book that could be easily defined by genre.

I was happy with that; I'd be turning my hand to something new, hopefully improving my writing as I did. Yet, after those thousand words, I'm left with something of a dilemma.

As the opening unfolded, I couldn't help but think of possible plot developments - where before, I had no idea where the story was going, ideas for major turning points popped into my head and before I knew it the ending had all but formed, uninvited and unwanted. What was literary fiction is threatening to morph into an adventure story, with some fantasy elements thrown in and a conspiracy theory to boot.

So I've stopped. I've left the word document floundering in the new Mr Stone folder I'd set up on my desktop and I'm ignoring it. Because I don't know what to do. Should I strip it all back and start again, keeping it based in the bleak setting I'd created for Mr Stone? Or do I go with the flow, follow my instinct to where it's taken the story so far?

Buggered if I know. So I'm back on the Giant, which is starting to come together nicely. As for Mr Stone, answers on a postcard to one seriously confused mind. Or, alternatively, stick them in the comment box at the end.

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