I am a person who needs a plan. The idea that you can sit down and write something worthwhile off the top of your head is something I find very hard to understand. Not that I need a completely rigid plan, you understand, just a direction.
So, for example, these past two months, I have been writing tiny pieces of fairy tale each day. If you want to know any more about this you can look back at earlier blogs. The good thing about this is that I have a place to start writing each day but I don’t have to spend time on planning because it’s not part of a plot. What I’ve done each day is, when I’ve woken but not yet got up, I’ve let my mind wander around in the canon of fairy tales until something snagged and then I’ve teased that until I could see a thread, then set it to one side until I was here, with the keyboard under my fingers.
Occasionally over the two months if I’ve been lying awake, I’ve delved a bit further into my next day’s fairy tale – much better than letting my brain dwell on those dastardly circular middle-of-the-night thoughts. Then, of course, I’ve got hope I remember it all the next morning.
Before the fairy tales I was writing the second book in a series I’m working on. The trouble with this was that I hadn’t given myself the time to write any kind of plan, so though I knew the setting and was very familiar with some of the characters (from the first book, which is a complete first draft), I only had the vaguest notion of what was going to happen in the story. I couldn’t seem to find the opportunity to sit down for several days and work out the plot in detail. I thought I could try a Stephen King approach, just getting started at the beginning and telling myself the story as I went along. But that just doesn’t work for me, it seems. I wrote the beginning, but I wasn’t sure it was the beginning. And then I simply couldn’t see what happened next.
So instead, each morning I would decide either to introduce my main character to one of the new characters I knew were going to crop up or to throw her down a hole and see what happened (metaphorically for the most part, but one morning I did actually throw her and her sidekick down a hole!). I tend to play it too safe with my characters often. I don’t make them suffer enough or bring them face to face with enough danger. I was experimenting with peril!
Eventually though, lack of a plan kicked in and I found I couldn’t see a thread running through the pieces I’d written. I’m sure I’ll work out how they fit together, even if I end up discarding some (not the hole though – the hole’s fab). I need to find the thread and write the calmer parts between the drama.
There’s no getting away from it. I need a plan. Just got to find the time.