I am mixing my metaphors here but hear me out. Though I have often professed to be a seat-of-the-pants writer I wondered today if that isn’t always strictly true. I always tell myself that I don’t like to plot and prefer to discover my story as I go along – and that is true so far as it goes.
Recently I hit a rather solid wall and was beginning to wonder if non-plotting was my best course. Short fiction is different because the story generally comes in a single moment and often on paper in rough form in days but novels are another matter.
Be they writing short or long fiction I hear most writers tell tales of ‘blankpageitis’ to one extent or another. That fear of staring at that sheet of paper (or increasingly blank screen) as the mind grows increasingly blank to match can be really intimidating. For me that feeling usually passes once I have that first 5,000 words down, and the only thing to hold me back is occasional bouts of research for various plotting points.
My ideas for the current WIP, which I am certain has the potential to be the best yet, came to a juddering halt. The first 10k came easily and then… what next? ‘Blankpageitis’ has become ‘newpageitis’.
There is a rough plan with a fiery ending in mind so why won’t the words flow toward it?
At times like this I feel like an old hunting dog that’s lost the scent, tracking to and fro across the heath trying first this trail then this and so on; expectant, hopeful and mostly determined. After a few months of false starts I was almost beginning to think that this might be the end of the journey for Bunch Courtney; that she had solved her final case. Three false starts with massive changes to the plot and I was still quartering the ground in search of that elusive trail.
I now see that my attempts to prevent book six from diving into the tramlines of many a series – where each case is a rerun of its predecessor – to avoid, as it were, that Midsummer elephant trap – was causing me to stray too far from the heart and soul of the Bunch Courtney Investigations. I was committing that most desperate offence in trying to change my characters to suit the plot. A course of action that never works because Bunch readers always know that their favourite characters would ‘never do this’ and ‘never, ever, that!’.
What to do? How could I make book six the same feel in regard to characters and settings, but with a different journey being taken?
There was only one thing I could do and that was to sit down and ask myself – what would Bunch do? What would Wright do come to that. Once those questions had been asked I sketched out a synopsis for the next few chapters and I believe I have it now.
(It was all that Henry Marsham’s fault! Bunch fans will know exactly what I mean 😊)
I write this knowing that when writing a novel I always work this way. Trial and error, trying this and that, following trails into blind alleys before backing out to try the next; that I often make notes at this stage and discard most before I come up with the combination? That I am happy with.
When it comes to plotting a novel though I wonder if many writers are truly seat-of-the-pantsers. Do most of us stop and make a few notes at some point? Perhaps. I only know that this is how I work. Book six has been slightly longer in gestation its true, hence this blog, but as I write on I suspect there is a very good chance are my current ‘synopsis’ will change long before I reach the end. My seat-of-my-pants credentials will then be more or less intact and not in too much danger of self-combustion. Sometimes a little planning can go a long way.
Catch up with Bunch Courtney Investigations and the places to find them here!
Reblogged this on Barry Lillie.