I passed 50,000 words — the month’s goal — in the early hours of this morning with my novel The Impostor. I’m actually aiming for 75,000 words, to make it a complete novel rather than a novella.
My aim, at the start of this year, was to get into the rhythm of writing novels. My first book, The Frozen Heart, which eventually become a video game, took me almost ten years to write. My second book, the Skifter, took four years. The Frozen Heart was too short, and the Skifter was too long. If you were reading this site at the beginning of the year, you’ll remember I kicked off with 12 Days, a novel written and posted online in 12 days, set over the twelve days of Christmas. It was an experiment as much as anything else, taking in elements of steampunk and fantasy.
Since then, The Mosquito God and the Twelve Labours of Djenn picked up a small but (it seems) devoted following on Figment.com.
Every time I write one, I learn a little more about doing it.
The Impostor is a historical adventure, set in 1862 (incidentally the year Birmingham Children’s Hospital was founded, though that isn’t relevant to the plot), and based on the character of Max Curtis of the Montenegran Imposture.
I’ve prepared differently for this one than from the others. For 12 Days, I hand drew a chart of what happened on each day, with lines of variation written in, and did little character sketches before starting. The Mosquito God had something a bit similar, but looser, and the Twelve Labours of Djenn I wrote very much from hand to mouth, with the labours themselves as the overall guide. The book ended up very differently from what I expected, and I was so pleased with it that, after a suitable period of proof reading, I sent it out to agents. Two have rejected it, and one hasn’t got back to me yet. I’m not put down by this — I had supper with some novelists the other week, and one told me that I really hadn’t paid my dues until I had submitted it to at least eight agents. Such are the vicissitudes of the writing life.
For The Impostor, I’ve gone back a little to my earlier system, but supplemented with help from Timeline 3D (see image), which lets me plot out exactly what happens on each day, and at each time, and then see them all together. For writing I have the trusty Jer’s Novel Writer, which I also used for a set of character sketches.
The other side of doing a historical novel is research. I am ever conscious that ‘research’ on the internet is the biggest source of procrastination that exists, so I vowed to get as many details ready as I possibly could before I began. This led me to some fascinating characters, such as Edward Prince of Wales and his sister Helena (Lenchen), whose personalities are briefly sketched out in many historical sources.
I had promised myself that there would be no more ‘research’ while I was writing, but it was a vain promise: the more you write, the more you want to know exactly how an arrest is made in 1862 London, whether the paperclip had been invented, what was the currency of Hamburg at the time, how to get from Berlin to Luxembourg by train, and exactly what the relationship was between the mad emperor of Austria and the independence of Belgium.
I’m pressing on now to get the final 25,000 words done.
Please do feel free to read what there is so far: The Impostor