What am I doing at the moment? Working on novel number three. To be more specific, I am re-writing novel number three. New structure, new plots, change of order, new scenes, loads of deletions, heavy work on the language. Snipping away Tommy Telling and replacing it with Simone Showing. It's an amazing experience. One minute you are down because you've just read something written a long time ago and realised it is poop; the next you are up because you are full of ideas, and fixing a broken thing can be satisfying. Sort of like recycling.
Since Cold Fusion 2000 was finished I have been doing lots of promotion for that novel, and research for the new one. I can put it off no longer. I now have to start re-writing and editing. And taking thousands of ideas and notes, then deciding which to keep and where to put them.
Before I can tackle the new structure, trying to give it a nice flow between upbeat and downbeat, humour and seriousness, high and low energies, with the each event driven by conflict and choice, I need to take a good hard look at what I have already. Make sense of it. So my current process is going through the novel as it stands and summarising each scene in a few words so that I can instantly recognise it.
An important question to bear in mind when doing this kind of descriptive work: is there a variety of settings? This may not apply to all novels, but in general you don't want every scene to take place in the same pub/house/office/cave. There needs to be variety and transition. If nothing else, new scenes present new challenges to characters, new ways of interacting, new topics and distractions. In this novel one of the settings is an office. And let's be honest, that can be a pretty boring setting. When you've finished a day of drudgery for The Man, do you really want to go home and read about it? Nah, of course not. So as I go through this process I am highlighting any office scenes in red, to give me an overview, a warning sign, and then I can consider whether another location could work just as well. In Cold Fusion 2000 I had seen this warning sign. One of the new locations I came up with was an ice skating rink for a few scenes. Great! New location and conflicts; it fitted the theme (cold, ice, get it?); it helped with the resolution of one of the sub-plots. Win win. Eat some cake, that man. Thanks, don't mind if I do.
The other thing I think about - in fact, this is far more important - is what is each scene for? Everything in a novel should earn its keep. Every word. Of course this is easier said than done. If I re-read my novels in a year's time I'm sure I'll see redundancies. But you do your best. So almost every scene should do something to add to the novel's energy, create or resolve some conflict. If it only serves one purpose, characterisation, then is it really earning its keep? Generally not. Of course characterisation is important, especially in a character-driven novel, but letting the scene do more, making it work harder, brings greater depth and the feeling of completeness, tightness, and that all important factor: quality. I want to feel the quality. The polish. The little gears underneath the surface working in perfect unison.
What's the name of the new novel? Still a work in progress. It was originally Soft Collisions, and I'm using that tag for now. Then, since it is a partner novel to Cold Fusion 2000, it became Soft Collisions 2000. The novels were conceived as twins, you see (an appropriate image if you've read Cold Fusion 2000). Same year, same city, same time, some similar events and characters. I want the novels to complement and contrast each other. Today I went for a run up and down a hill. It is hard work. I got hot. And decided that I need the word 'hot' in the title, to contrast with its partner. At first I played around with Hot Monday 2000 - a play on the Happy Mondays and Blue Monday, since the protagonist is obsessed with Manchester music from the 1980s-90s, and many of the events could take place on a Monday. Then I switched to Hot Division 2000, since Joy Division also feature strongly in his love of music, and the title contrasts even better with Cold Fusion 2000. Both novels feature lovers divided or coming together; escaping the past and embracing the future. I want their relationship to be clear.
Maybe on my next run I'll change the working title to Wheezy Knackeredman 2000.