The assignment I’m talking about is a trilogy of fantasy novels. My brief comprises an overview of the storyline, brief sketches of the main characters and a comprehensive outline of the first book. I’ve got three weeks to write three sample chapters – that’s about 6,000 words. Detailed though the outline is, it’s just the bare bones. It’s my job to add the flesh. To create something that lives and breathes. To turn the characters from ciphers to real people you actually care about.
To write a story that nobody in their right mind would want to put down.
Today I’ve collated all the background information into a single project file and read through the outline. I’ve begun to lower myself into the heads of the three characters whose point of view is represented in the sample chapters I’m required to write. I’ve started to visualise the fantasy world in which they live, and tried to think beyond the vivid but limited descriptions I’ve been given.
In short, I’ve tried to get into the zone.
I’m partway there. Off the starting blocks at least, and that’s what counts. Over the next three weeks I plan to keep you posted with regular bulletins from the front line. Naturally I can’t share details about the story – that’s all strictly hush-hush – but I’ll try to share at least a little of what I’m going through as I negotiate this most peculiar of literary challenges: ghostwriting.
If my pitch is unsuccessful, this will be a very short series of blog posts. If I do get the gig, you’ll get to follow me all the way through to the bitter end. A successful pitch means the chance to write the entire novel in just twelve weeks before enduring several rounds of editing, all for the privilege of seeing a book on the shelves that nobody will ever know is mine.
Why would a sane writer put himself through such an ordeal?
Stick around and you may find out.