This week I've been editing, chopping, polishing and rewriting Jimmy Coates: Power - the 6th in the series, due out in October.
I'm pretty pleased with it at the moment, except for a couple of tricky corners I need to work out. I'm sure I'll get them sorted today. They're not plot problems, which are always harder at this stage. A plot problem now means that I didn't plan things out properly.
These corners are more to do with character development and attitude. The sort of thing that is usually there under the surface, and I just need to bring it out with an extra line or two, or a different phrasing of something, or some different dialogue. It's about emphasising what's there already more than shoving new stuff in.
In the last couple of weeks I've dropped in on Darren Shan's blog (http://darrenshan.blogdrive.com). It's interesting to read how different his approach to writing a novel is to mine. He talks about his characters 'taking on a life of their own' and surprising him with the way they talk and act. When I write, I've already decided exactly what the characters will be doing, how they'll be doing it and when. I'm the one who decides how they speak.
I've heard about the 'life-of-their-own' school of writing a lot, and some of the best and most successful writers are part of it (evidently that includes Darren Shan). I think that's great - for them. But I also think it's important for people who haven't written a book yet to realise there are different ways of working. Writing doesn't have to be a mystical and mysterious process in which characters 'speak to you'. It isn't like being a psychic. Well, it isn't for me, anyway.
There are obviously different ways of doing it. As many different ways as there are writers, supposedly. But there do seem to be these two schools of thought. And as far as I can see, the image of a writer that is more widely circulated is the one in which the characters take over as you write and 'magically' create themselves.
For a lot of writers that's a myth. Not all writers, but certainly for me. And I prefer it this way.