So that took a while. <Insert traditional apology for not updating my blog regularly enough> In truth - and here comes the excuse - it's been pretty hard to find any time to do anything over the past few months, but for one (hopefully) very good reason: I've been eyes down, full steam ahead on Book 4. (Which you'll be able to read three chapters of if you're one of the lovely, lovely people who picked up Vanished during its first week on sale this week – thank you if you did!) At the moment, I'm on 77,684 words, so I'm definitely closer to the end than the beginning, even though – at times – it's not really felt like I've been making the sort of progress I'd like.
In fact, people who follow me on Twitter might remember that I trumpeted excitedly that I'd hit 70,000 words about two months ago, which immediately raises the question (in particular, I imagine, at Penguin), "only 7,684 words in TWO MONTHS - what the hell have you been doing?!" So here's my excuse list:
1. My day job.
2. I managed to put my back out somehow. (Literally, I have no idea how, meaning there's no interesting story or amusing anecdote attached to this bit, unless you find the idea of me lying, prone, on the floor of my living room watching The Hotel Inspector and Cash in the Attic for five days, amusing. You don't... Do you?)
3. Chapter 37.
4. The release of Vanished.
I can't talk much about (3) without spoiling the plot of Book 4, but it's fair to say it was pretty important – a big, pivotal moment in the novel – and it took me ages to get it right. The way I write probably doesn't help. I'm not, and probably never will be, a writer who can blitz their way through a first draft, undeterred and unaffected by mistakes or inconsistencies. As soon as I start to feel that something isn't right, I have to stop and address it. It's just the way I am. I find it impossible to move on until the chapter I'm working on is mostly how I'd want it to be (or, at this early stage, think I'd want it to be) in the final version. There are pros and cons to this approach.
The advantage is that, according to my agent and editor, my first draft is the equivalent of someone else's third or fourth draft, and that ultimately means fewer rounds of edits and a more complete manuscript from the off. The disadvantages are pretty huge, though: because I write in such a regimented fashion, and because I opt for linearity in my approach (I write chronologically, and I never leave chapters unfinished), the whole process is much, much slower and, ultimately, more stressful. Where some writers can churn out a first draft in, say, eight weeks, my first draft takes closer to eight months. Where they might not get hung up on filling out characters or addressing plot holes in their first draft, that's exactly the stuff I can't leave alone. Only being able to work on the book in the evenings is part of the problem, of course, but not the whole problem. Even if I had all day, every day to work on my books, I'm sure I'd still be facing down that same combination of lack of time and major doubt.
In the end, though, I suppose it works for me. Maybe there are better and easier ways to write books, but this is the way I know, and this is the way I'll probably always work. If I lose all my hair at 36, you'll at least know why.
I can't go without mentioning Vanished, released last Thursday. Thank you so much to everyone who has picked it up this week, who has written about it, or reviewed it, or emailed me to discuss it, or just been out there saying nice things about it. Remember, you can get in touch if you haven't already, by email, Facebook or Twitter.
Author of the David Raker novels