>Flatland 08

>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.

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