Still on a high from completing the first draft of my first novel a week ago, I sought out some earlier works to see how they measured up. I unearthed some surprises...
First, I took another look at the project I abandoned mid-September when I started CONDUIT. Reading through, it's nowhere near as bad as I thought it was. The premise is good - a very fresh take on one of the very oldest horror cliches - and the writing itself seems pretty good, but it lacks a strong opening, and I think that's why I lost faith in it. Just too slow to get going. So, at some point in the future I will revisit this idea and see if I can find another way in.
Then, after scouring my house for a CD-R for about an hour, I dug out the nearly-completed novel from a few years ago.
I really, really, really - I mean REALLY - liked it. Thinking about it, it's almost exactly four years since I started it. I had an intial burst of creativity and hammered out the first 30,000 words in no time at all, then the next 30,000 within a reasonable period of time.
Then I moved house. All the pressures of buying a home, and all the attendant mess and fuss, meant I was away from it for several months. When I finally had time to come back to it, there was just no spark to it for me. Nothing to make me eager to sit at the keyboard so I could find out what happened next. So, it died. Up until I re-read it (I just finished about half an hour ago) I thought the story itself had fallen apart, but I was wrong. It's tight with a clear plot and bags of conflict.
It's three years since I last read the 62,661 words of this nearly novel, and a lot has happened since then. Huge, life altering things. I have lost and gained both friends and lovers. Some to the grave, and some to the petty arguments that go along with life. So, when I read this over the last two days, it was really for the first time - and I loved it!
One very apparent thing - my style has changed drastically since then. I'm not sure if it's better or worse, but it's most definitely different. For one thing, it's pretty obvious I was reading a lot of Carl Hiaassen at the time! It's a sort-of-crime-thriller, with a clear absurdist streak. It's violent, foul-mouthed, and fast as hell with gritty, sparky dialogue. It manages to be a lot of fun but with occasional flashes of a very dark, bitter core.
I guess the question is - do I want to finish it? Yes, I do. A big vacuum has been left by the completion of the first draft of CONDUIT and the need to leave it alone for a while, so this would fill the void nicely.
A bigger question: CAN I finish it? I don't know. The style is so far removed, the rhythm so much more frenetic, I'm not sure if I could drop back into it without it sounding like a completely different person picked up where the other left off - in a way, that's exactly what it would be. I'm a different person from the guy who decided he'd have a crack at a novel four years ago.
Another big problem - genre. My genre is paranormal and horror. My reading is much broader, but for some reason the stories that bubble up from my subconscious tend to be on the dark side. This older piece is crime fiction, and as such is a very different beast and I know for certain I won't write many more like it should I ever be lucky enough to be published.
Whatever happens, I'm going to give it a go. If nothing else it might help go back to CONDUIT with a fresh eye when I start the first proper rewrite.