The rather nondescript notebook in the picture is one that my husband brought home from an overseas conference in lieu of actually buying me a nice present. But it must be my lucky charm. For it seems that I finally have a plan.
But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. I have joined forces with five other West Australian writers in a collaborative blog venture called Writers Ask Writers. Author Emma Chapman has done a terrific job of explaining what we are trying to do here, so I won’t plagiarise her wonderful words. Suffice to say that 6 writers are surely better than 1 and so each month, each of the 6 writers will answer a writing related question in our blogs and we’ll share the link to the other authors’ responses so you can have a read. Oh, and there’ll be a 12 book giveaway on Facebook soon too!
This week, we’re talking about The Writing Process. By capitalising it, I feel as if I’ve made it more official than it actually is, at least when it comes to me. The writing process is something I’ve written about before, and even done a little video talk on, so what more could I possibly have to say? Well maybe I’ve learned a thing or two in writing If I Should Lose You and What is Left Over, After because the book I’m writing now actually does have a bit of a plan behind it.
Writing and the Chaos Theory
To recap – I’m usually a chaotic writer. The story unfolds to me the same way it does to a reader, page by page. I have a general theme or idea in mind when I begin writing, I toss in a character and hope that a story is the end result.
But look! Here’s another page from inside the notebook. It has notes written on it. These notes could possibly be called a plan. A sketch or a skeleton at least. They actually contain a rough outline of the path my main character, the twenty-one year old Evie Lockhart in New York in 1925, will travel over the course of the novel. This is so much more than I’ve ever had before when I’ve begun writing. I even have a good idea of how the story will end, which means I will avoid the gasping panic of getting to seven-eighths of the way through a manuscript and realising that I really need to start wrapping things up in some as yet unimagined way.
So why has this happened this time? I really don’t know. Maybe I have learned something in the writing of books one and two. Maybe parts of this idea have been percolating around in my mind for years without me knowing it. I’ve wanted to write a book about sisters for years, and this book is about sisters. I watched a documentary on ABC about eight years ago about Broadway and one of the acts it covered was the Ziegfeld Follies and I’ve had a note written down ever since then that the Follies would be a perfect thing to include in a story. And guess what – I’ve even managed to work the Follies into what is currently page one of the book.
Where to now?
So I have a bit of a plan. Where to from there? Writing the first draft. I try not to edit at all when I’m writing a first draft. I need to get the draft out, fill in the flesh of the story and not slow myself down by polishing words and sentences until they shine like little nuggets of gold. That can happen later, in the redraft. That doesn’t mean that I don’t go back and add bits in. I do. I suddenly realise that, having got to a point in the story, there is a scene missing from earlier on that explains a character’s motivation, or their subsequent actions, or that adds in some necessary background. So I’ll go back, add in the scene and then move on, going forward, getting to the end.
And I have to say that having a plan makes everything so much quicker. I’ve only been writing this book for three weeks and I already have 14,000 words. That, my friends, is something of a miracle. I usually find starting a book to be the hardest thing; catching the voice of the main character can be a little like scooping sand with a net. But not this time. I have the delightful Evie’s voice pitch-perfect (I think!) and I am loving both her and her story and my motivation to sit down and write is the best it’s ever been.
How does it work for other writers?
- Emma Chapman’s post is very exciting because in discussing her writing process, she gives us an insight into her new novel – where she’s writing from the point of view of a male war photographer in Vietnam. It’s quite fascinating.
- I can absolutely relate to Dawn Barker’s quest to find a chunk of time to lock away 500 or so words a day, in between chasing after three kids. She explains more about just how she does this here.
- I also found myself nodding in agreement with Sara Foster’s habit of getting ideas in the middle of the night and on long journeys in the car. The same thing happens to me! You can read all about her writing process here.
- And if you want to know how a writer can research things as far removed as butterfly breeders, puffins and burns’ treatments, and then incorporate them all into a novel, then have a read of Amanda Curtin’s take on the writing process.
- Writing in longhand vs typing the story straight into the computer? If you find yourself wondering which is best, then you’ll find Annabel Smith’s post well worth a look.
I hope you enjoy our new venture. Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment! And if you’d like more news about me, my writing, writing workshops I run and books that I love, then you can sign up for my monthly e-newsletter here.