When you write a novel, above everything else it takes a lot of time. Or at least it does the way I write. Unfortunately, and I mean that here from a literary point of view, I have a full time job, hobbies and a life outside my iPad (laptop has seen better days so most of my written work now happens on the pad). It just means that that feeling of euphoria when you have finished something, when the task as epic as writing a novel is finally complete, well, that payoff is a long time coming. Of course when it arrives it’s massive. Properly joyous. But it’s the journey; and it’s a journey.
Reading a novel has a lot of rewarding attributes. All those little details and hints and red herrings make the reading experience so fulfilling. And the re-reading experience goosebumpy. Of course the flip side of this is writing in all these nuggets of sparkly juiciness takes work; lots of work; and planning.
So when it came to writing The Last Day, I wanted to negate all the planning. I wanted less thinky more writey. In short, I wanted a writing experience that was fast, wielded a strong character driven story, and had a quick pay off for me as the author.
The Last Day felt like it wanted to be a short story. The very nature of the narrative is short. It’s someone’s last day alive. Not every character would have an entire novel dedicated to their last day on this earth. In fact, most of us would have a short story because a day is short. What happens to you on a daily basis? You eat, work, exercise, watch telly and sleep.
But what could happen? What could you achieve in a day if you knew it was your last?
I wrote episode one (John’s story) in a few days. I had no plan. I had no direction. Only who John was and that he wasn’t going to survive the day. I didn’t know why. I didn’t know how. This made the writing process very instinctive. I was experiencing it exactly as John was. That’s why it’s written in first person. It felt immediate. Harsh. Bleak I suppose. It’s a very quiet story. Very personal and yet (hopefully) not self indulgent. John isn’t a self indulgent man. He is very loyal and kind and his family is everything to him.
The Last Day is a series of short stories. And for that series I have a very, very, very broad outline. And that’s the way it has to stay. It has to be impulsive. I want it to be exciting and I don’t just mean the story, I mean the experience for me actually writing it. Philip Pullman doesn’t plan his novels. He sits down and he writes them. What a talented man. To achieve such literary heights with very little planning, well, that’s something I most definitely aspire to achieve in my career.