Flashback completed

Copyright (c) FreeFoto.comWell, today I wrote the final words of my cur­rent book, a tech­no­thrill­er called Flashback. (The final words? “Like a ghost.”) The first draft comes in at 125,410 words, which is shade over the word count I aimed for when I star­ted the manu­script in November. It’s only the first draft, but there’s not just the sat­is­fac­tion of hav­ing writ­ten the book — there is also the know­ledge that the story works. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the story worked as well as it could; for that, it will take some months of edit­ing. But the story did grip me as I wrote it (there were no moments of writers’ block, whatever that is) and if it doesn’t work on the page in its present form, that prob­ably means some super­fi­cial rearrange­ment is neces­sary. I say ‘super­fi­cial’ rather lightly, of course. Superficial changes like ‘make this scene less intense’, ‘improve this character’s motiv­a­tion’ and so on will seem pro­gress­ively unsu­per­fi­cial as the edit­ing pro­cess bites.

I’ve noticed some posts over on John Barlow’s blog and Grumpy’s about the amount of time some nov­el­ists spend writ­ing a book. In some senses, the ques­tion is a little like ‘How long does it take to build a house?’ Depends on the amount of land, your mater­i­als, and what you want to end up with. But since I’ve just fin­ished the first draft, it might be appos­ite to con­sider how the writ­ing pro­cess went.

Flashback began as a loose col­lec­tion of ideas at the begin­ning of last year (around May, when I was com­ing to the end of Proper Job). I knew I wanted to write more about a char­ac­ter called Saskia Brandt, from my first nov­el, Déjà Vu. Spoiler alert: Saskia has traveled back­wards in time to the year 2002. She has already seen her­self as a middle-aged woman in the year 2023 (still fol­low­ing?), so she knows that, at least until the year 2023, she can­not be killed. I wondered how this would make Saskia feel. Fearless, because she can’t die? Trapped, because she under­stands that all her actions have been pre­de­ter­mined? Anyway, I had an image of Saskia climb­ing aboard a air­craft to ensure — for a some reas­on — that it would not crash. In its final form in the book, the idea is a little dif­fer­ent, but the spir­it of the idea remains. I had oth­er flashes of ideas: Saskia is German, and I wanted to incor­por­ate the con­nec­tion that Germans feel with the forest; I wanted to have an English char­ac­ter lost in Germany too, per­haps to serve as a proxy of the dis­con­nec­tion that Saskia must feel, since she is stran­ded in our time.

Following a ‘research’ trip to the Bavarian National Forest in July of 2005, I read up on air­crash invest­ig­a­tion, re-read the Grimm fairytales, and stared out of win­dows a great deal. Towards the end of my research, I came across an inter­est­ing air­crash in the Andes (the crash of the Star Dust). This wasn’t the first time I’d heard about that crash, hav­ing seen the excel­lent Horizon doc­u­ment­ary a few years ago, but it fit per­fectly into the revenge back­story. I knew, imme­di­ately, the fate of the Star Dust was — in my fic­tion­al world — con­nec­ted to the crash of Saskia’s plane in 2002. That was the point I knew I had a book’s worth of story.

There were a couple of sur­prises along the way. The fin­ished book didn’t turn out any­thing like the rough syn­op­sis I had when I star­ted (sum­mar­is­able in a sen­tence). Another sur­prise came in the form of the nature of the book; I thought it would be a sequel to Déjà Vu, but the book is basic­ally stan­dalone. It actu­ally took a little longer to write than I thought, too. I star­ted writ­ing on Friday 21st October 2005. Aim: Write 1000 words per day, sev­en days a week. My work rate was 820 a day, so I missed the tar­get. But some days were research intens­ive, and I was care­ful to avoid those ‘brain warm­ing up’ para­graphs that would even­tu­ally need to be removed dur­ing edit­ing, and I treated the prose like I was writ­ing a short story: tight, to the point, and enter­tain­ing.

So, the pro­cess of writ­ing Flashback has been a pos­it­ive one. Some of the days were long, some were dark, but there were no times when the story got hard to write; the char­ac­ters were always enga­ging and it was nev­er dif­fi­cult to ‘fall through the hole in the paper’, to use a Stephen King phrase. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I will adjourn for a beer.

Zokutou word meter
125,410 / 125,410

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Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

3 thoughts on “Flashback completed”

  1. I hope, when you edit, you delete blocks rather than chop­ping detail and dam­aging the flow and tex­ture of your excerpts, Ian!

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