Friday, 3 April 2009

Ideas

I spoke to Isabel Ford today. We had a long phone conversation going through the page proofs for the book, doing the last check through for errors and amendments on Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth. This is the small but massively important stuff - the highlights in the eyes.

I have spoken before about the importance of the editing process, but I thought it might be good to just talk a little about the specifics of how this book has gone from a bunch of ideas in my notebook, to a book ready to be printed.

OK. Well, as I have just said, this book started, as all my books start, with little verbal doodles in my notebook. I always have a pocket-sized Moleskine notebook on the go, but I do have a tendency to keep things in my head too long (where they can be forgotten). I think it is best practice to get things written down.

Inevitably a lot of these notes are what you might loosely call 'ideas'. I was mentioning to Helen Szirtes the other day that I have become increasingly suspicious of 'ideas'. People often say 'I have this great idea for a book' but what they are really saying is that they have a premise. And having a great premise for a story is fine as far as it goes, but someone has still got to write it. Take twenty writers and they would all make twenty different books from that one premise - some very different indeed.

So what exactly are these notes in my notebook? Well, they are all kinds of things really. They might be notes on a character or a piece of dialogue. They might be a note on how to a untangle a knot of some kind that has developed in something I am writing. They might be the start of a story. They might be the end of a story. They might simply be a premise for a story or a title that suggests the possibility for a story.

For instance I have 'The Jet Brooch' written down. I like the title - I like the word 'jet'. A jet brooch would be black, of course, which is nice. I can see a lovely, sinister, glossy black brooch. But what form the brooch takes or what happens in the story, I haven't yet decided. I have a few ideas but none that is fully formed. It is there as an image, just to get me going. One day when I am on the train, or eating my lunch or falling asleep, a story will come to me about that jet brooch.

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