Getting to the point

So where do you get your ideas from?

I know we all dread the question and, even though I know I’m going to be asked it, I still haven’t come up with a sensible answer. Philip Pullman (note name dropping ) told me and two hundred other people that he bought them at ‘Ideas R Us.’ I want to say that elves leave them on my desk in return for chocolate crumbs, but the truth is I often lack for any ideas at all.

I rarely think to myself: ‘I want to write a story about…’ That’s not how it works for me. I can’t wait for inspiration. I haven’t got the patience to wait for a bus I always set off walking so why would I wait for inspiration? Instead I start writing and hope the idea bus will catch me up. Often an idea will emerge within a paragraph, sometimes within a first line. Most of the time characters, places, situations, rebound like snooker balls on a billiard table and I discover that they have all arranged themselves in such a way that I can pocket the lot. Sometimes sadly, that doesn’t happen and it takes a lot of work and a lot of miscuing before I get to that point, indeed to any point that might count as a desirable destination.

My new book (out today as it happens) is one of those latter books where the ideas didn’t all come together either by happenstance or by gargantuan subconscious effort; they resolutely refused to arrange themselves within potting distance of a plot resolution. ‘Wolf Blood’ was the result of more of my blood, sweat, tears and foot stamping than is usual. It was not high concept. Give me credit. I tried to make it sound like it was (Oh – did I try!) ‘Roman werewolf meets warrior seeress with bloody consequences?’, ‘Roman werewolf meets Celtic firestarter?’ Nah. It really isn’t that kind of book.

It is hard for me to sum up because it isn’t one big idea, delivered neatly packaged by elves on a sugar high, but lots of little ones, colliding tangentially until somehow the game got resolved. ( I hesitate to say won.)

I do not give good elevator pitch. I don’t work like that. I can’t get to the point, the point of the book until after I’ve written it and sometimes not even then.

What I’ve learned is that you don’t need a big idea to write a novel, but you do need the confidence to carry on regardless, in the hope that one will arrive. Someday, eventually, it probably will. That small (and possibly inconsequential) message of hope to those lost in plot pits is the point of this blog.