I love it when a plan comes together.
My style of writing is to block out the bare bones of a chapter and then when it comes to actually writing it, allowing my fingers to their own devices and indulging in a bit of creative embellishment. Really, its 1 part thinking to 2 parts doing.
1 Part Thinking:
Plan. Write a brief, brief, brief synopsis for the chapter considering the important plot points and really just mapping out the beginning, middle and end. More often than not, I have a place my main character has to end up, and I just plan the steps they take to get there.
Take a first pass at the writing which is really just turning the synopsis into prose. This doesn’t always feel like you are a competent writer, or even that what you’ve written is particularly good, but it does get the story going. Mostly, my first pass is speech. Getting the talkie bits in gives you a framework for the rest of the chapter.
Now this is the bit that I love; the heart. This is where I make the story feel. Difficult to explain. I make sure that the chapter is coherent and consistent when it comes to perspective, and try to ensure that I refer back to my main character as much as possible. I also embellish the speech.
I heard a brilliant piece of advice once, when it comes to a character’s dialogue. Basically, if you don’t love every single word that each character says, then cut it. For me, this makes the dialogue easier to write. If it’s half-hearted and just ‘serving a purpose’ then change it and make it right for that character.
It’s also where I feed the descriptions with some much needed adjectives. Pass 2 is all about making the chapter sit in its rightful place in the book and in the landscape that you’re writing about. Describe the scenery, enhance the mood, make the surroundings matter as much as the characters speech and thoughts and feelings.
Of course, this is an extremely general simplification of the process. The ‘1 Part Thinking’ is actually the culmination of years of characterisation, plotting, figuring out twists and turns, back story, research… I could go on!
But what I really love is when in doing the second pass, I write something and connect something that I didn’t know was there, at first. I’ll try and explain…
It’s the goosebump moments. Those rare times when the facts and research and plotting and sub plotting and characterisation and dialogue and setting all merge to create something special.
I always thought that Russell T Davies was very clever in his plotting – and he is! He writes things in that don’t seem important and end up being massively important. He has a fantastic way of linking things that you didn’t realised were linked to begin with. Pockets anyone?
He’s also very good at using the information he has already established to his advantage. So, when it comes to making that link, he looks incredibly clever, like he had planned the link all along. When, in reality, he probably discovered the link was there half way through writing it – “Us Smiths have to stick together!”
Am I making sense?
The reason I bring this up is because I just linked something in my novel which is really nothing more than a happy accident. A fantastic play on words that hopefully, if you ever read it, you will think I was so clever and had planned it all along, when in actual fact, it happened by accident through a bit of research and using what I had already established.
This makes me so happy! For a brief and shining moment, I felt like a proper writer. I even had goosebumps.
Then I read it back, and I gave myself goosebumps again!
It’s these small and clever times that spur me on. It can be awfully lonely and quite isolating working as a writer. You can doubt yourself 300 times a day, and only feel like you’ve done good maybe twice a day.
This is one of those times! I pat myself on the back.
Chapter 11 is finished and I am half way through Chapter 12, as of yet untitled. I hate giving a chapter a title if it doesn’t naturally come to me. That will be next now, I’ll spend days agonising over the name of this chapter instead of writing it.
So to save myself the bother, I’ll name it now: lets call it…
Words Written in Red and White
It’s a working title. But I like it!