Devil in the Detail update

Ploughing on with DEVIL IN THE DETAIL.  It’s been tough due to the face that I’ve had three colds in the last six weeks, like an idiot – no idea what’s caused it but writing is probably linked.  Cutting down the caffeine and increasing the sleep has meant I’m feeling better again, so I’m confident of firing on and meeting my own insane deadline.

I wrote DEVIL IN THE DETAIL about two years ago to a novella length of about 22,000 words.  This time last year, I got so fed up of GHOST IN THE MACHINE that I decided to just publish novella length books like that, the logic being that it’s easier.  I sort of gave up on that plan as DEVIL works better as a sequel, as there are a few things established in GHOST that are picked up in DEVIL that I’d otherwise have to pick, plus about 25% of GHOST is exposition – setting up Cullen, Bain, the fictional Edinburgh they live in, their careers, plus all of the supporting characters – McNeill, Caldwell, Deeley, Anderson, and so on.  When I picked GHOST back up in December and finished it, I realised that I needed to write long-form detective fiction.  I finished GHOST in February and had it edited (yeah, yeah, yeah – that’s proofing which I’m stupidly getting done now) – at that point, I had a look through DEVIL and decided that there was enough unexplored in there that it could easily fit the long-form.  

The trouble would be, I had 22,000 words written and I needed something like 70-90k.  There was a subplot I used in my first book – BECOMING VISIBLE which is just shite, but there’s something in it that I plan to revisit some day, working title GIMME DANGER – that I could use.  There was something else that I picked up that gave me another idea.  Those two ideas linked to something from GHOST and an idea I had for the third book, DYED IN THE WOOL, that would give a nice thematic link across the three.  The other thing, I guess, was that the book was “under-written”.  I had a habit – any my editors will concur – of not fully describing scenes or people’s actions – one of the things that comes across from the reviews is that I fixed that in GHOST.  However, the problem persists in the manuscript for DEVIL, so that 22,000 is probably about 40,000 when it’s fleshed out.  Also, the whole second act was quite tight – one of the key things about writing thrillers is to make things as difficult for your antagonist as possible, which is something that I hadn’t quite done.  So, after about 3-4 weeks of solid planning, I had seriously expanded the story into something that was full novel length, but the crucial thing is that the story is not stretched thin by it.  There’s enough meat on the bones already to give a satisfying tale.  The pacing is better now as well.

I’m currently at 32% on my “death bar” – a term the comics writer Warren Ellis uses to determine how fucked he is making his health from his writing – which is pretty good, and about 20% in a week.  I’m finding it easier to write the new stuff than to edit the old stuff, which is what I found in GHOST.  That’s quite reassuring – I’m getting better as a writer, more structured, methodical and writing better first time – and by better, I mean more focused, with less tendency to drift down tangents that don’t quite work.  My death bar is using a rolling average of what I’ve written – e.g. 82 scenes with an average of 1,000 over the 30 scenes I’ve written would give an estimate target of 82,000 words.  Most of the earlier scenes are longer due to the exposition and scene-setting but there tend to be more new short scenes added later on as I write it.

One other thing that I’ve been doing is some proper detailed research into forensics and pathology.  I got there in GHOST eventually (and hopefully you don’t notice) but the actual technical detail in DEVIL is far higher.  I’ve used correct terminology and thought through the crimes in a level of detail I didn’t think possible before – one of the problems with writing off the hoof is that every detail you put in should actually mean something, if you make it up as you go along then you’re in for an interesting ride but there will be tangents that just don’t go anywhere and you have to remove or turn into red herrings.  I’ve learned the hard way that I need to plan!

I notice that I used a lot of instances of the word detail in there.  Hmm.

One final thing – there’s an incidental character called Whammy in there, which was requested by one of my followers on Twitter.  I do that sort of thing.  I know that the likes of Ian Rankin and Stuart MacBride have charged for that sort of thing with the proceeds going to charity.  You’d be surprised at how easy it is and how fun it is.

Oh, and I’ve had another sale in Germany.  Weird!

— Ed

Author: edjamesauthor

East Lothian-based writer of crime fiction novels. Published by Amazon Publishing's Thomas & Mercer imprint and self-published on Kindle.

3 thoughts

  1. Hope that you’re feeling much better, Ed. Sickness sucks. What is the word count range (if any) for a novella? My target for my w-i-p is about 40K.

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