Somerset Maugham is supposed to have said, "There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."
I shouldn't dream of disagreeing with such an august personage, but as I embark on my fourteenth novel (Fourteen? Is that possible?) I think I can allow myself three rules that apply to my personal writing process. Especially in the case of this particular novel, which is based on a short story I wrote several years ago, I find that I need these rules. It turns out that expanding a short story into a book-length work is a substantially different undertaking from my previous efforts. So here I go, fully admitting that I composed these, in part, to quiet my own anxieties:
1) Every novel has its own process.
This is an old rule, actually. Even with straightforward novels, the kind that begin at the beginning and run straight through to the end, there's a learning curve, and it's new with each project.
2) Each novel forces me to learn to write all over again.
Painfully true. It seems that even novels within a series challenge me with new plot problems, pacing issues, character arcs. It all goes more smoothly if I just accept that I'm going to have learn to do it afresh each time.
3) An open mind is my strongest asset.
It's the current work that has taught me this. I thought, in my innocence, that expanding a short story into a book would be a simple thing. I have the setting, the plot, the characters. I know what's going to happen, and when, and why. What else could I need?
See #2. Pacing. Character arcs. Subplots. In other words, #1 is still true. This book, like the others, has its own process. The only certain thing is that I'll have the same doubts and fears with every novel, as my family has made clear to me whenever I voice them.
I wonder if the redoubtable Mr. Maugham would grant me these?