Blimey. Is it the end of September already? I never thought there would be an occasion in my thirties where I got to roll out the question, "Where has the time gone?", but now seems as good an opportunity as any: so, seriously, WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE? One month on from the last blog post and it feels like I've crammed in about three years worth of work.
Or maybe I'm just out of practice.
As eagle-eyed readers of this website's News section will already know (as well as Facebook and Twitter friends - join us if you haven't already!), I've signed on to do two more books with Penguin. That's two more after The Dead Tracks – which is, by the way, sitting on the table next to me here in full-on typeset form, looking just like a real book. There's always a flutter of excitement when you receive the typeset proofs – well, there is for me, anyway – because, for the first time, the book's no longer just a Word document full of editorial notes, comments and corrections, but a properly constructed, professionally laid out novel. In a weird way, it seems to bring the whole thing alive, turning the story you know so well, the story you've edited, re-edited and read through countless times, into something new.
There's a certain amount of pressure attached to this final read-through, though. It's the last chance to spot errors, grammatical or otherwise, the last chance to make adjustments to dialogue or scenes, the last chance to adjust the ending you might not be sure about. But I have to say, for the most part, I'm pretty happy with The Dead Tracks. I don't for a minute think it's perfect, and certainly don't expect everyone to love it, but I think it's the best thing I could have written at this point in time. Maybe two or three books further down the line, I'll look back and pick it apart, but for the time being I think it shows an improvement on Chasing the Dead, has better storytelling and plotting, and that's good enough for me – for now.
I mentioned being out of practice right at the start, and I say that because – as well as The Dead Tracks proofs – I've been beavering away on Book 3. And you know what? It's been hard going. I took a whole lot of time off from writing after finishing the rewrites on The Dead Tracks because I was exhausted. From the moment I signed on with my agent in March 2008, I basically wrote constantly for two years, every evening 7pm - 12am, and then went to work the next day. First Chasing, then The Dead Tracks, with no break. I needed some time off, so from April this year until July, I didn't really do a lot. I dabbled, but not seriously. And, to be honest, I think I may have left it too long. I got to read tons of great books, watch loads of movies and TV shows, but coming back to Book 3 has been a rude awakening. It's not just getting back into the groove of writing every night, although that's a big part of it, for me it's a confidence thing. I'm about 75 pages into Book 3, and I'm having doubts every night, about the tiny, tiny things I never even considered on the first two books. Already I'm re-reading chapters and wondering if they're good enough, if they improve upon the second book in the way the second book improved on the first. But when you're writing regularly, I think there's less of that. You get an immediate sense of what works and what doesn't, and as things flow, you adapt quicker: you add to the synopsis, take the story in directions you hadn't planned, and often that's when the best bits of the book happen.
Don't worry, I'm not having a nervous breakdown. Well, not yet anyway. But it's been a lesson well learnt for the future, and that lesson is: never ever take a single day off, ever. Er, or: keep writing, even if just a little.
Author of the David Raker novels