Monday 15 March 2021

Planning: how it didn't go to plan but that's OK - Rowena House

The past month was meant to be dedicated to planning the 17th century work-in-progress. 

            Instead, a structural plan for the entire novel dropped onto a Word document within one day of starting it, presumably the product of months of thinking about the two viewpoint characters, reams of background notes taken in the early hours and late at night, and subconscious decision-making about the story as a whole. 

            Hurrah! But...

            When it came to writing a new chapter from that plan, it didn’t really help.

            Worse still, the time I’d allocated to planning was being gobbled up with puppy training (yay), domestic tasks (blast ’em) and edits that were making a not-too-awful first draft of Chapter Two into a proper sow’s ear.

            SCBWI South West and MAWYP writer buddy Lesley Moss immediately spotted what was happening when I mentioned on Facebook how badly the edits were going.

            She asked if these messy edits were part of the discovery process for that character, and of course she was right. I didn’t know Beth Knyvet well enough to write from inside her head, even if a lucky break with the research had shown me her home in sufficient detail that I could be in that place beside her.

            [You’d have thought after fourteen years writing fiction off-and-on I’d be a bit more on the ball with this stuff, but hey, we’ve all got a lot going on, right?]

            The question now is whether to backtrack and craft Chapter Two before re-writing it. That is, list the escalating conflicts she’ll face – inner, inter-personal, environmental/physical and societal; nail a turning point; and identify a Story Value with a clear polarity switch (AKA Story Grid/McKee’s Story planning) or continue to wander through Beth’s moonlit garden in 1612 London, discovering what ails her, even if that’s likely to be far slower than sitting down and planning the scene upfront.

             Since I’m not hoping to write for a living any more (and well, you know, life, Covid, Brexit and now the vigil on Clapham Common and which way Labour will vote on the Police Bill) I think I’m going to stick with the fun bit of wandering and wondering.

            If nothing else, even when a scene is carefully planned, it is the unexpected that tends to produce the best linkages to the next scene, the most surprising yet natural because of that...

            Meanwhile, for every major character, there will at some point be a Story Grid alongside the copious biographical notes already on file. The precise nature of the relationship between my two viewpoint characters will also have to be sorted out, and Chapter Three is a biggie, so it’ll need plenty of time.

            But so what? Why stress about any of it? In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter a hoot if this story takes one year to write or ten.

            I'm also stopping this post here as it's Mother's Day as I'm writing it, and my wonderful son and his lovely girlfriend are making me dinner. A first. And life's too short not to savour every moment of such joys.

            I hope your writing brings you pleasure at least some of the time, and when it’s not, you feel it’s okay to stop and do something kinder to yourself. Take care and be safe. Clocks go forward soon. :o)

Twitter: @HouseRowena



Mostly dog pics on Instagram

PS apologies for lack of pictures. Blogger and my laptop were having a tiff. 







1 comment:

Andrew Preston said...

There's a saying, which I read somewhere which goes, approximately...
People will tolerate a government which is incompetent, but relatively benign.
They'll tolerate a government which is somewhat nasty, but efficient and competent.
What they won't tolerate for long is one that is nasty, and incompetent.

In my view, the current government is in the latter category. Unfortunately, I don't view Labour as being particularly strident about limiting police powers, or promoting civil liberties, especially with the new lot in charge.

I've contributed to the Extinction Rebellion legal fund over the last couple of years, and generally support their work, and how they go about it. Amazed that any person, or government, has so little moral compass that the Rebellion could be labelled as a criminal threat.

In December 2019, just before the general election, I drove up to South Bristol to attend an electoral hustings organised by Extinction Rebellion. They had invited all the South Bristol candidates. The only one to decline was the Conservative. Brexit/Ukip, Labour, Green, and Liberal all showed up. I've not attended zillions of hustings, but I've been to a few. I've come to expect planted questions, snidey asides from one candidate to another. Just generally cynical.

I can only say that the husting that night was respectful.., the candidates said their piece, answered questions. Basically, very different to others I've attended. Completely different atmosphere. But the Tory wasn't there.