What to Write . . .

Thursday, 7 December 2017 12:09

So, what story should I write next? There are always so many stories spinning about in my head. I have notebooks filled with scribbles. I have electronic documents filled with ideas, and half-written books, but it’s so hard to know which one to write.

When I visit schools and students ask me if I have any writing tips, I tell them to write whatever they want. Write with wild abandon. Write the kind of stories they want to read.

I try to follow my own advice – I’ve never written a book I didn’t want to write, and my first draft is often a little bit crazy and needs to be reined in but . . . and it’s a big BUT (which my son would find funny, big butt, geddit?) I do have to consider what other people want. My publisher, for starters. Writing novels is neither a secure nor a well-paid profession, and I need my publisher to like what I write. I need them to approve. If they don’t, then they won’t publish it and I don’t get to eat or pay the gas bill.

I also need to consider my readers. Sounds grand saying ‘my readers’, doesn’t it? I mean, I’m no J K Rowling, but I do have a few readers, and there is a certain expectation from a Dan Smith book. No one would expect a gentle romance with my name on the cover.

Relax, I’m not writing a romance.

I’ve been asked many times if I’m going to write a sequel to Boy X. When I finished that story, I left it open so I could re-visit Ash McCarthy’s adventures if the opportunity came along. But my next book, BELOW ZERO, is not a sequel to Boy X. It is set in the same universe, though, and there are a few Easter eggs for those who have read Boy X.

So what next? Well, the thing is, every time I start writing a new book, it’s like doing it for the first time. I don’t have a ‘writing process’. I don’t have to have twelve sharpened pencils beside me as I sit in my favourite old armchair in my writing shed. I don’t plot and plan and draw charts, or have a wall decorated with post-it notes. Each of my stories evolves in a different way, and the book I’m writing at the moment has formed through a few phases. My publisher has seen the first few chapters and they like it, so I’m taking the adventure further, weaving the twists and turns, bushwhacking my readers by whipping their expectations from under them.

This one is a little different, but it will still be a Dan Smith story, and I’m having a lot of fun with it. It’s the kind of story I’ve wanted to tell for a long, long time, so now I’m enjoying the telling. I hope everyone enjoys the reading.

That’s all.