As I have already mentioned, His Willing Marionettes grew out of a couple of prompts supplied by members of a writing group. The main body of the book evolved in the same manner – a title for a short story would be suggested and, instead of doing as I was told, I would come up with a new chapter for my WIP, whose working title at the time was The Main Man. Examples of these prompts are The Morning After, The Ring and The Old School Photograph. The Morning After – for those of you who have read the book – is self-explanatory. I didn’t get round to actually writing the preceding chapter until much later on. I had never written a sex scene before, and the thought of having to get into the mind of a fifteen year old girl tentatively, and rather unwillingly, embarking on her first experience was more than daunting! With regards to the other chapter headings – I knew one would become the build up to the climax, whereas the other would come about a third of the way in. Consequently, nothing was written in any logical order and things were getting out of hand, so...
I got myself some cork board and some geography pins and pinned these chapter titles, and the others that were to follow, in the places where I assumed they would end up in the finished book. A loose framework was beginning to emerge and my next job was to fill in the gaps in between. As you can imagine, this was an incredibly time-consuming process involving countless revisions.
After finishing the book in draught form, and eager to start on the sequel, I joined a 10 week writing workshop with Joanna Smith who runs the Black Dog Writing Group – introducing us to structuring the novel. I was surprised that, by either fluke or accident, I had got it mostly right, apart from being heavy-handed with the amount of backstory placed right at the beginning (a problem of using the original trio of short stories as a Prologue to the book). Another problem arising out of this was the positioning of the Inciting Incident – the event that sets the story rolling – in this case Leroy’s death. If Leroy hadn’t died, it’s unlikely that Darren would have hit on his twin sister Grace; neither would he have been obliged to recruit the services of Joel. To get around this problem, I decided to delay revealing what actually happened to Leroy by introducing it in flashback later on in the book, when Darren finds himself in a similar situation as Leroy's.
Book 2 Tightening His Grip was structured from the start and proved a much faster process. Interestingly, I had to remove content from Book One so that it could become the Inciting Incident for the sequel. At this point, I had already submitted the manuscript for Book One to a handful of agents without success, for which I am now grateful!
I was originally afraid that the structured approach to writing would act as a straitjacket from which I would never escape. I’m somebody who prefers to wing it. But, as it turned out, it was not much different from my original method with the cork board and geography pins. The structure proved to be just the skeleton of the story, and the writing of it, the flesh. I was amazed by the freedom it gave me to alter elements along the way – particularly the ending, which underwent numerous changes in direction. That’s the problem with embarking on a series – I had to come up with something that would whet the reader’s appetite for more. I hope I manage to do this – for a few of you at least.