In the last couple of years of writing
Douglas, I’ve had an idea for a third novel bubbling away. Two years is a long time to be throwing around an idea, and although I don’t outline a story before starting it, and certainly nothing on paper, this perculatory period has allowed me to form the story to a greater depth than in the past. The final piece of the puzzle came last week while I was out walking the dogs in the forest (by far my favourite thinky place), and gave me the middle to my beginning and end – and by middle I mean the ‘guts’ of the story.
Now at first I grinned like a fool, which was okay because I was by myself in the middle of a forest and the dogs (a German Sheppard and a Bichon Frise) have seen me like this many times before, usually with a couple of empty wine bottles at my side. But on this occasion the dopey grin didn’t last long. I started to worry that the story was too fully formed. How could inspiration and creativity meet for that drink if I’d just called last orders? Don’t get me wrong, like
Douglas, the story is as original as they come. I never start with ideas that have been done before. I don’t try to twist tired clichés. A cliché is a cliché is a cliché. But it felt like I’d left no room for that lightning strike.
As I was still knocking around this idea, I thought I’d write a short story, something to take me out of Douglas Mode before I started on the tricky third album. Again, I’ve had the idea for this short story for a while, and as it’s short, it came fully formed – complete with bowtie and sparkly smile. As a short story I wasn’t worried about creativity and inspiration meeting up for Mai Tais, so when the two main characters turned round and told me that I had the ending all wrong and that the story was actually about something else, I got that dopey grin on my face again (no wine, no forest), then nodded sagely.
So my third novel is more fully formed than usual. So what? The story is completely original, way, way different to anything I’ve written before (a sci-fi/fantasy/historical/time-traveling mash-up, if you must know), and pretty fucking spectacular, if I may say so. And if creativity and inspiration can find the time to meet up for drinks over a four-thousand-word short story that I thought I had nailed down, I really should stop worrying about them not meeting up over the course of a novel. In fact, I’m going to open a tab for them right now.