If you’ve read some of my previous posts you’ll know I’m currently too busy to review many books but I’m still taking part in a few blog tours and this is one that I’m particularly excited about. I have the book itself from the lovely Karen at Orenda books so will read and review it in time, but for today I have a very interesting guest post from Thomas Enger on how he writes his novels. Enjoy and don’t forget to check out the other dates in the tour!
Blurb: When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, her husband discovers that his wife’s life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to the death of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests. Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex-wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Norway’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. When their lives are threatened, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history. Chilling, gritty and unputdownable, Cursed marks the return of one of Norway’s finest crime writers.
Guest post: How I write my novels
One of the most common questions I get when I travel around talking about my books, is how I go about writing a whole novel. Especially kids or young adults are curious about this, and I was, too, when I was younger.
I guess there are a lot of ways to write a novel. Some just start to write a scene, and then they take it from there. I guess, in theory, that’s one way to do it. When I was younger, that’s what I did, too. It’s not my method of choice anymore, and I’ll explain to you why.
I find that not knowing where you’re going, with anything, is a fun way to write, but it creates a lot more problems than it solves. It’s tricky enough to write a novel when you have outlined the story beforehand, because a lot of stuff happens to the story and the characters as you dive deeper into them, stuff that’s impossible to plan. So when you haven’t planned anything, you stand the chance of just writing a whole bunch of pages that will be of no use to you, at least in that particular story (you may be able to use it for something else later, though), as you would have to omit or change a lot. If you’re able to just start writing something, and when you’re done, you’re done, then chances are you are either lying, or simply a phenomenal genius. Most people aren’t, though. I know that I’m not.
So my process is usually something like this: I get an idea for … something, in a story. It may be the start of a story, it may be something in the middle of it, or it could be the ending. It could be a character, a prop, something that would catapult me into thinking about how I could put that idea into good use. It usually starts with the question “what if?”. What if you are talking to your friend on the phone and then that friend gets killed as you are talking to him? What if there existed a magical pen out there somewhere that you could write with, and those things you wrote, would end up happening? That least question actually led me to write a novel called The Evil Legacy, a dark fantasy young adult thriller so far only published in Norway and Denmark.
But I write that what if-question down, or that idea for a character, or that specific scene, and then I start to tinker around with it a little bit. I try to imagine what kind of characters would fit the story, and then I start to work on their backgrounds. I write whole CV’s for almost each and every one of my characters, which means that I know them quite well before I start the actual writing process. This can be quite tedious, but I find it very useful.
I also outline my story quite a bit, but not down to every last detail. I like to keep a few things open, as I know from experience that things very often take a turn for the unexpected as the writing takes me deeper into the story. Sometimes other ideas appear as I go along, and those ideas make me rethink the character’s role in the story, or what should happen next. It’s a dynamic process, but knowing a little bit about where you’re going before you start, is always helpful. To me, at least, because then I know what kind of effect those changes will have on the story as a whole.
So what I usually do, is that I quite quickly write my way through a very rough first draft. This is not in any way readable, couldn’t possibly be looked upon as “literature”, and I wouldn’t show it to anyone, but it helps me to get to know my characters and my story. Then I go back and start to change things. To me it’s always after that first draft is finished that I normally know what kind of story I’m going to tell. It’s not like I get it right the first time around.
Each of my six novels are the product of a very long process of writing and re-writing, sending drafts to my editors, talking about the characters and their motivations, bringing that input back to the drawing board, and then go back to the beginning. Again and again and again, until it’s good. And by that I mean not good as in good enough. I mean really good.
I wish it was some easier and more efficient way to do this, but so far I haven’t found it. But I’m continuously searching for a better method, for a better strategy, and whenever I meet and talk to other authors, that’s what I’m the most curious about. How they go about writing their stuff.
Two things are for certain, though: It’s not easy to write a novel, and there are more ways than one to do it. You just have to find a way that works for you.
Author bio: Thomas Enger (b. 1973) is a former journalist. He made his debut with the
crime novel Burned (Skinndød) in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication. Burned is the first in a series of 5 books about the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo’s underbelly,
skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news. Rights to the series have been sold to 26 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller
called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult). Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.