The Twin-Pronged Approach

25 Nov

So, some six years after embarking upon it, I have finished my blockbuster of a novel with a World War II setting.  Most writers vacillate between the belief that what they have written is a work of genius and the horror that they have laboured for years over a pile of trash.  I’m no different.  For all that, I still feel that this is far and away the best manuscript I have produced.  It isn’t about to appear on Amazon or Smashwords, though, so there are no plugs for it here. Instead, I am following the Kafkaesque and potentially futile path of trying to get a publisher to read my work and take it on (I’m not going to discuss this issue here – it will be the subject of a future blog).  I am thinking of establishing a publishing house called The Castle Press, an institution which authors will approach in vain, never managing to find its address or telephone number. Sometimes they will believe themselves to have entered into a dialogue with the Press only to have their latest correspondence returned unopened, the address marked as unknown…

I have a writing friend who constantly revisits and revises works that he began a decade and more ago.  I can’t work like that.  Once I have completed a manuscript and revised it, I find it slipping away from me, almost as though someone else had written it.  And so it is with the aforementioned blockbuster. I have given copies to a number of trusted fellow writers and readers and will mull over their comments and, no doubt, make some final revisions and that will be that.

Book ideas are another matter.  I have a vast store of them.  Over the summer, I began thinking about embarking upon a new work.  Choosing which one to develop next has always been a process fraught with difficulty, filled with regret for paths not taken.  If, like me, you have to make a living from other endeavours, writing time is at a premium and manuscripts take years to complete.  Choose the wrong one and precious time is lost, never to be got back.  I spent seven years around the turn of the century on my great Condition of England novel, only for it to emerge, dead in the water.  I never approached a publisher with it nor gave it to anyone else to read.  It’s an experience that I’ve no wish to repeat.

An abandoned work, seven years in the writing…

This time around I’ve adopted the twin-pronged approach, working on two ideas at once.  It’s not an approach that I’ve taken with fiction before.  I have worked on journalism at the same time as shorter fiction, but that is qualitatively different, it seems to me.  Over at my writing retreat in Brittany this August, I began work on a sequel of sorts to my last manuscript, this time with a Cold War setting, exploring mankind’s unique ability to destroy itself, along with the rest of the planet and its inhabitants. And then a month or so ago, I started planning out another, altogether stranger work.  It’s takes an alternative historical approach to explore the various disasters that befell Europe in the twentieth century and their fallout in the present century. Working this way provides me with a number of potential gains.  First of all, if one of the manuscripts leads to a dead end then I still have the other work upon which I can fall back.  Secondly, when one of the projects stalls, as inevitably it will, I can put it aside for a period of time and work on the other idea.  The time that elapses should then allow me to return to the manuscript that I’ve placed on hold with ‘fresh eyes’.  And thirdly, more of those ideas screaming at me to be born get the chance to be brought into being and my writing output is potentially increased.  So little time, so much to try and achieve…

Thus far the approach seems to be working and I’d recommend considering it to my time-pressed fellow writers.

An image related to my latest book idea…

All images and text © PSR

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