I’ve found that writing the first chapter of a new novel is the usually the most difficult. By way of contrast, when I’m approaching the end, I know almost exactly what’s going to happen, I’m full of energy, enthusiasm and motivation, and I can easily write ten pages in a day – not that those ten pages don’t require some major editing before I consider them complete. But finishing a novel, for me, is the easy part.
The place where a new novel begins is in my head. I get an idea. For example, in the case of Sin & Contrition: wouldn’t it be interesting to write about six characters who grew up together – three boys and three girls. They live different lives but they continue to interact, and most importantly, they do some things that they shouldn’t have done. Sometimes accidently, sometimes on purpose. And it would be interesting to reveal their reactions to their ‘sins’. Are they sorry or not; how do they justify it? What are their feelings about it later in life?
Usually after getting an idea, I’ll mull it over for a couple of weeks. I think about how the story would unfold and develop ideas for making it more interesting. If I’m still keen on the idea, I’ll prepare an outline of the story, of the characters, and of the messages that I hope the reader will take away. At that point, I’ll get started.
Some weeks ago, I started on a new novel. It was to be an allegory set in the Middle East, and it would feature a professor of philosophy and a Saudi princess as its principal characters. I had done some outlining, and I was definitely ‘up for it’. But when I started writing, it was a chore instead of a pleasant task. My enthusiasm wasn’t there. I still thought it was a good idea, but I just couldn’t develop the creative energy. I decided to put it aside. It may be that the currently confused environment in the Middle East was a contributing factor to my hesitation. Anyway, about half of chapter one is written, and I like what I’ve done, but it will have to wait.
I had a somewhat similar experience with Sable Shadow and The Presence, my fifth novel which is about to be published. In that case, I wrote several chapters, but I lost my way. What’s the point of this book? Where’s it going? In the meantime I wrote The Iranian Scorpion. When that was finished, I revisited Sable Shadow and The Presence, and I began to develop a comprehensive vision for the novel. I re-organised and re-wrote big chunks of it. Then the enthusiasm began to come and I finished it. I’ll tell you when it becomes available.
Probably something similar will happen to my Middle Eastern allegory about the Saudi princess and the professor of philosophy.
In the meantime, I’m writing a sequel to The Iranian Scorpion, and I’m half way through the first chapter. Robert is back in the States, and he has met up with Mary Jo (his father’s young fiancée). They are working on solving a crucial problem from her past: her relationship with her father. I can tell you that his next assignment will be in Peru, and that will take him into a dangerous region of north Africa.