Marking Time

writing editingI have always seen myself as a dyed-in-the-wool/seat-of-the-pants kind of writer and so, when I begin a new project, I will have an opening and an ending (of a kind that exists way over there in the dim distance), a rough notion of who is making the trip and vague notes on how they are going to get there. However – not unlike travelling the M6 – there are no end of things that can cause detours and delays between start and finish, and I am not averse to bumping off various characters for a bit of added tension!

There are writers who plot and plan in minutest detail and produce notes on each section almost as long as the end product; a process that I would call a first draft. I can see the logic behind such meticulous plotting, especially when embarking on a crime novel of the whodunit variety. I reasoned that this genre necessitated my change of tactics – i.e. a fully formed synopsis – because the signposts and clues need to be seeded with more precision. With that in mind I planned out my novel chapter by chapter with the relevant clues highlighted along the way and felt quite pleased with the overall logic that had emerged.

For probably the first time ever I had a hard core synopsis to follow, and was merrily trotting through it at quite a pace, feeling unimaginably smug,  until … the ‘unexpected character’ arrived on the scene of the crime. He was intended to be a minor, if pivotal, character. A purveyor of information who allows the main protagonist to join the proverbial dots. Except that once he had walked onto the page he refused to leave, and his continued presence has altered the dynamics completely.

I don’t object to his presence – far from it. His walking into the plot has livened things up and added a whole new dimension. But that old ‘leopards and spots’ homily springs to mind when my carefully planned synopsis has turned out to be something of a misnomer; torn it up into so much confetti by my seat-of-the-pants writing brain. In consequence I am half way through the book and most of what has gone before now requires ‘tweaking’ (rewriting) and massive extending to accommodate his presence.

The essential plot remains the same, but I am now marking time until what I have written through pre-planning has been caught up with by my more usual peripatetic style of planning; which leaps from stage to stage like polar bears on the ice flow, always with an ending firmly in sight but allowing the tides to dictate how I reach it. Far from having a carefully crafted synopsis what I had was an opening and an ending (of a kind that exists way over there in the dim distance), a rough notion of who is making the trip and vague notes on how they are going to get there.

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