I've finally been making some progress on Paris after a month of distraction by publishing commitments – some of them mine, some occasioned by the launch of How to Be a Writer. I would say the manuscript will be ready in two weeks, but in one week I'll hit the wall of school holidays, and hit it hard. So probably not.
However, I'm in a pretty good space at the moment. I've learned a lot from the launch of Cairo and both of the Hooper ebooks. I continue to study the industry, the market and increasingly the craft. I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about writing the last 10 or 15 years. I've mostly just been doing it and paying the bills. But having to rebuild the business has forced me to rethink it.
As part of that, I've been reading a book recommended by Ms Girlclumsy, Save the Cat, (Amazon link) by Blake Snyder, a screenwriter. (Sadly, he passed away in 2009. This makes me very sad).
I'm not about to turn my pen to screenwriting. That's not a skill I have or plan to acquire. But structure, character, and the revealing of character through action, these are the superpowers of the screenwriter, and well worth studying for their own sake. So I have been.
I have also been studying the e-book industry, of course. One of the arcane magics which most intrigued me is the idea of building a story to sell to particular readers. Some call it writing to market, some call it pre-optimisation, some call it selling out. I think the last is bullshit. Every storyteller wants to be heard. Every band wants to play to a full house.
I've had a couple of ideas for books floating around for years, but because they didn't align with the interests of my trade publishers I was never able to do anything about them. Revisiting some of these ideas, having learned the lessons of the last 12 months, I find myself more excited by the prospect of writing than I have been in a long, long time. In the last month or so, as I hurried from one commitment to another I've worked up ideas for half a dozen novels, none of which I would have been able to sell in the past. They weren’t the Axis of Time. They didn't revisit The Disappearance. The Dave was not involved.
Some of them were ideas for quite conventional thrillers, and I don't sell conventional. Others were closer to my original genre work, but not close enough for the business plans of risk averse trade publishers.
None of that matters any more. If I want to write these things, I'm going to write these things. Put them out there with my name on, with another name on, in any form I want. And the hell of it is, I'm pretty sure I'll sell a lot of them, because they're good stories that people will want to read.
I'd love to lay them out here for you to see, but that would be foolish. So I'm just going to get back to my keyboard, finish Paris, restart the main sequence of Axis, and very quietly keep pushing forward of these new books. They could be in the world of real things very soon.