First, an update: Last week I completed the US copyedit of I Am Not a Serial Killer. It’s the same book as the UK version, but honed to a killing edge. It’s really great. You’ll love it. Now I’m sitting on the Book 3 edit (not the copyedit, but the first-round rewrite edit), which I’m kind of putting off while I work on Strawberry Fields. It’s going to mean a fairly large-scale rewrite–not of the ending, which everyone loves, but the early stuff, which is weird because usually my endings are terrible in the first draft. It’s good to know that I’ve finally managed to learn how to do endings without a writing group and an editor beating me over the head.
Now, Strawberry Fields. I’m just shy of 20,000 words so far, which would not be a great Nanowrimo pace but isn’t bad for something I consider to be in pretty readable condition. When I put my outline together I realized that it was almost exactly the same shape as the three Serial Killer books: about 22 chapters, of about 3k words each. There’s nothing wrong with that shape, but it’s one I’ve already done it a lot, and I wanted to branch out. This being aimed at the adult market, I really wanted it to be a little longer, and since it’s a thriller I decided to shorten the chapters a bit, so the book moves quickly from scene to scene. So as I’m going along, each 3k chapter in my outline is actually ending up as about two 2k chapters in the book–simultaneously longer and shorter than the original plan. It’s working pretty well.
My outlines are always pretty complete, plot-wise, but the benefit of developing my ideas so fully beforehand is that once I start writing I get to fill in all the cracks with hints and foreshadowing; I know the whole story, even when my characters don’t, so it’s easy to make it look rounder and fuller than the outline suggests. For a cheap and easy example, there’s a character who doesn’t show up until a third of the way through the book, but I know who she is and what she does, so I can mention her and drop hints about her during the first part before she comes on stage. For a weird and complex example, the final revelation of the truth behind the conspiracy doesn’t come to light until the end, but it’s affecting everything they do now, so I’m able to seed the book with metaphors and words and images that seem completely normal now, but will gain extra meaning (possibly multiple meanings) by the time you get to the end. I can’t tell you what these are, obviously, but I hope once you finally read the book they’re as cool for you as they are for me.