Friday, 30 April 2010
Writing Out Of Sequence - Lucy Coats
You see, I've been feeling uncomfortable for some time about those moments when a scene comes into my head, fully formed, exciting, raring to go, saying 'write me, write me'. They are doing it more and more, and that's good, but nevertheless a cause of worry and wondering what to do about them. Because I am that orderly sort of writer, my usual response is this: 'Well, of course I'll write you--when I get there. Just hang on for a bit. You're fantastic. I love you. But I have to get through three more chapters before I reach the part where you come in.' Stupid, isn't it, when you really think about it? What is this idiotic, superstitious fear I have that writing a scene out of sequence will somehow make everything in the book go wrong? Why do I risk letting some of that excitement and energy and freshness leak away because of some ritualistic fetish about Doing It In Order?
If I didn't know before, I do now--the answer is to ask an Irishman. Yes, it was Eoin Colfer I listened to at LBF (and if you'd like to listen too, there's a video of him talking at the PEN cafe on Candy Gourlay's wonderful Notes from the Slushpile blog here). He said lots of funny things (he's a funny man), but the thing which struck me most in the present context was this: when asked by Julia Eccleshare 'Do you plan your books?', Eoin said he did--in detail, and he said that he used to stick to it religiously (so far, so like me) and write it in order. But then came the bit which made me sit up and take notice. Eoin now finds, he said, that the best bit of any book is where the plan changes and goes off track, and that if he has an idea he writes the scene straight away, even if it's out of sequence, to keep the buzz. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Sounds sensible. But it's taken all these years and another orderly writer telling me he's broken out and done it differently to make me realise that it's ok. Nothing about writing should be set in stone forever and ever--just because I've got a certain beloved way of doing things (and have had for years) doesn't mean I can't take a fresh look at it and make a change when I need to. Sometimes, I think, we writers get stuck because we are imprisoned in mental boxes of our own making. So my spring resolution is this--break free of the constricting mould, write exciting off-plan stuff then and there and don't be such a superstitious old stick-in-the-mud! PS: I'd love to know if any of you are writing stick-in-the-mud's too--and what your writing 'sticking points' are.
Lucy's website http://lucycoats.com/
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