Monday 9 November 2009

A Small Step for Martin

…but a giant leap for his morale. I’ve just written the first couple of pages of the new Lake District Mystery, having had my synopsis approved – with enthusiasm! – by my agent.

It took me a long time to write The Serpent Pool, and I’m hoping that I will be able to produce the new one more quickly. One difference of approach is that I’ve reverted to planning the book rather more in advance – something I used to do in my early years as a novelist. I didn’t do much planning with The Serpent Pool, and on the whole, this slowed me down and made much of the writing of the first draft feel like wading through treacle.

I’m not going to say much that is specific about the new book until it is very well advanced (may be a long way off, then!) But I’m sure the writing process itself will prompt thoughts about the craft of fiction which I’m likely to post on this blog.

Now – a change of subject. So far, I’ve read only the first of Stieg Larsson’s three books. I mean to read the other two, but I’m not sure when this will be, due to countless other commitments. Can any reader of this blog help me on one question, please? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo sees various references to the crime fiction genre (e.g. Val McDermid gets a mention) and what is described as a ‘locked room’ type of mystery. Do the other two books nod towards the genre in a similar way, and if so, in what respects?


Uriah Robinson said...

Martin, in Hornets' Nest there is a reference to Jan Guillou's spy thrillers, which are incidentally also translated by Steven Murray.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Uriah, that is very helpful. CAn you tell me anything about Guillou, by the way - I know you are a Eurocrime expert!

Lewis Peters said...

Declan Burke's views, and possibly my response, on planning may be of interest -

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Congratulations on the synopsis approval!

Do you like your new technique of heavy planning? Does it feel constricting at all? I'm curious...I've thought about changing my technique a bit.

I've only read the first of Larsson's books, too, unfortunately.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Anonymous said...

Martin - Congratulations! I'm very happy for your about that synopsis approval. It's funny you would mention that about planning books in advance. I did that, more or less, for my first novel, a bit less so for the second one, and now, I've come back to it for the third. I think at some level, we all realize that advance planning makes the work go more quickly. At least it does for me.

Ed Gorman said...

The timeless debate--to outline or not. Graham Greene felt that once he began to plan in advance, his writing improved. I'll have to ntry that sometime.

Maxine Clarke said...

GWDT plays with locked room mystery.
GWPWF plays with the fugitive mystery.
and as Norman says, GWKTHN plays with the Le Carre spy-style thriller.

Good news about the new novel, congratulations!

Dorte H said...

Congratulations on your rather important step!

It sounds like a good (time-saving) idea to make a detailed plan. I wrote one a few years ago without having much idea where I was headed. And now I have quite a lot of editing to do as the publishers think it has a great deal of potential - the suspense comes too late, though. So do I wish ...?

Rob Kitchin said...

I gave up on advance planning a while ago. Characters kept saying or doing things I wasn't expecting and the whole thing would shift off in a new direction making the plan redundant. I start with a vague notion of where things might head and then let them unfold. I find this also makes the process of writing more interesting as I need to bash away at the keyboard to see what happens next (and who committed the crime)! It's a method that has served me well with academic writing and it seems to work okay for my fiction, though there is an enormous difference in how I write both.

Martin Edwards said...

I've enjoyed these comments - thank you all. And I'm tempted to do a post or two about what Ed rightly describes as the timeless debate.
Maxine - thanks. Are any other crime writers mentioned by name in the second and third Larsson's, can you recall?

Maxine Clarke said...

Sorry, Martin - it would not surprise me as there is a lot of attention to detail, but my memory isn't up to it. Nature is in book 3 though, I am not likely to forget that! (Lisbeth likes reading it.)

Eldred Curwen said...

I am a Lake District dweller and love any additions to the wealth of books about the Lake District. Although, because of the area, we do seem to have an excess of non-fiction books related to walking!

If you ever need inspiration do come and stay in our Lake District Holiday Cottages. We would be delighted to welcome you as we are slightly off the beaten track. If you are interested do drop us a line and we could consider some incentives if you wished?

Paul Beech said...

Great to hear you’re off the blocks with your fifth Lake District mystery, Martin. Obviously Keswick and Derwentwater will feature. As for the plot, well, I’m speculating it will have a marine dimension… Of course I completely understand your reluctance to give anything away at this stage.

I think Angus Wilson put it well in a Paris Review interview with Michael Millgate in 1957. He believed writing fiction was a kind of magic. “I don’t care to talk about a novel I’m doing,” he said, because if I communicate the magic spell, even in an abbreviated form, it loses its force for me. So many people have talked out books they would otherwise have written. Once you have talked, the act of communication has been made.”

I do hope you’ll do a post on “the tireless debate,” though. Is it possible to really explore the potential of a scene without writing it? And what of those wayward characters who only spring to life in the writing and might trash any plans you have for them? What a finely wrought mystery might demand, a knockabout thriller might despise. Seems to me that, except perhaps for Jeffery Deaver on the one hand and James Lee Burke on the other, there’s a balance to be struck between the outlined approach and the organic, depending upon the nature of the novel and the author’s creative temperament.

As for Stieg Larsson’s crime fiction references, maybe his translator Reg Keeland (Steven T. Murray) could help. He has a blog, ‘Stieg Larsson’s English Translator,’ and his Blogger Profile gives an email address.



Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments. Eldred, I shall be in touch.
Paul, many thanks for the blog details. I shall check it out.