Actually I can. I’ve done this before, three times last year, though not in so few hours.
In a nutshell I sat down this morning at 0930 and started staring at my History notes, checking odd bits of biography online and in my reference books.
I zeroed in on a moment in History as the climax. I used a spreadsheet to create a timeline specific to that. Characters leaped out at me. I used a mind mapping package to create a web of connections, checked facts, tweaked.
Then I jotted down the story for each–Hell! Being able to type makes a hell of a difference!– and adjusted my web as ideas came to me.
Round about 1500 I did the school run, handed over 3 x My Little Ponies for Morgenstern’s playdate. I had a cup of tea with Kurtzhau and went back to work.
Now finally I started outlining–damn, spilled beer on my keyboard!–and typed until it was 1710 and time to grab Morgenstern’s scooter and to head out in the rain to get her.
Kurtzhau, on his own scooter, and his sister rocketed back through the dark damp streets of Victorian Edinburgh. I cooked dinner in time for my wife’s homecoming. Ate with my family, then left supportive spouse to do stories and bed.
By 1900 I was typing again, giggling and swearing with glee, the old The Vikings soundtrack pumping out of Spotify.
Finally, at 0100 it was done.
1,200 words of mayhem and bodice ripping. The time just vanished But the editor has his outline as promised.
And I have my beer.
Now the thing is, when I sat down this morning, I had absolutely no idea what I was going to write. None. I had some History in my head, and one or two events and places I wanted to focus on – to tie in with the game I’m writing for – but that was it. Moreover, I had no idea last week while I was completing a non-fiction project, or the week before, or months ago when I signed to do this.
I’ve been living off my writing for a year now and it’s the same every time:
“What’s the next novel going to be about Martin?”
“Uh. Swords. Resolving complex human problems through violence. Historical Stuff as well. Did I mention swords?”
The thing about novels–stories–outlines–is they are constructed.Not from the ground up, but kind of sideways; it’s like somebody gives you a pile of rocks and you have to build a wall over uneven ground. Since the components all imply each other, you can’t know what you are going to write until you start laying them out.
And then there it is on the screen in front of you and you go, “Jesus Christ I did that” and gulp your beer, which you damn well deserve.
Writing gets easier with experience. I’m even getting used to signing a document in which I’m more or less promising to write something creative at some time in the future around a particular theme but god knows what. I’m starting to trust myself to fill the void when I finally reach it.
Even so, Jesus Christ! I did that!