Flatland 08

Flatland - an unfinished String City manuscript

Being the eighth in a series charting the writing of a new fantasy detective story.

After adding another 600 words last night (PI meets his neighbours in the posh penthouse apartment of playboy Neptune – another ‘placeholder’ name), I woke early and realised it wasn’t going so well. Over 3,000 words in and not enough has happened. Also my PI hero is almost entirely passive.

So I read Peter Straub’s The Dark Matter for a while (nothing to do with this project, just the book I happen to be reading right now) and let the problem work itself through in my head. The solution is simply to tighten everything up. The events so far – discovery of the flattened city, seduction of our hero, meeting the neighbours – are all fine, I just need to get through them quicker. In fact, in something of a frenzy. Everything I’ve written is really just the set-up, so let’s get it done fast.

In fact, the idea of frenzy is the key. I’m going to put my hero PI through such a whirlwind that he actually flees back to the safety of his office in order to escape, think straight, start putting the pieces together. which is what will make this a proper detective story. Next step – some ruthless rewriting. Everything that doesn’t contribute to the frenzy goes overboard.

This is a common problem for me. Short stories (or novelettes in this case) don’t come naturally to me. I’m more comfortable with novels. But these short forms are a fabulous way to be hard on yourself, and improve your technique. Nothing matters but the story. And I mean nothing. So, having fallen into my usual trap of taking it too slow, it’s time to put the pedal to the metal.

Fingers crossed, it’ll be for the best.

Read the complete Flatland diaries:

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