I follow a lot of writers – on Twitter and via various blogs/websites – and most of the articles/posts/tweets are about how their various works are progressing. One main thing mentioned is how well the writing is following the pre-determined plan they created prior to writing the first word. As a writer having a game-plan before I start is something I’ve never managed to achieve.
My writing is haphazard, it flows and changes direction as every conversation, scene, major event occurs. I find planning all that out beforehand hard to envisage. I do have an idea where my story is going, I have the start and the end. What happens in the bits in between is in the laps of the gods. I primarily write short stories, perhaps that is why I work this way? With a shorter narrative to produce there is little need to plan ahead. If this is true then that is perhaps why I have struggled so much on the two occasions I’ve pushed the limit beyond the standard 8,000 words.
I’ve one completed novel under my belt, it was written for the first Pratchett Prize 18 months or so ago. I topped out at a little over 81,000 words, it never made the cut and I’ve not revisited it since I got the rejection. Just after Christmas I decided to have a look at it and see if anything needed doing, boy, did something need doing. It was all going OK up until about chapter 5 – just over 8,000 words in ironically – when things started going a bit Pete Tong.
Somehow I managed to include a character I’d killed off in chapter two, I also revisited a location that was destroyed – killing said character – without any mention of it being re-built (or allowing for the time it would take to re-build it). As I progressed the story meandered around the central characters in such a way that my the middle I’d given up all hope of understanding what was happening – and I’d wrote the bloody thing.
I’m working at the moment on another novel, so far I’m about six chapters in and over 15,000 words. I’ve spent a lot of time re-reading and re-editing as I go. This has made the first section more fluid and makes it follow the story. But it is time consuming and means I’m writing with a stutter and not getting a good head of steam up.
I suppose what I’m saying is am I doing it wrong by forging ahead without a map? Should I try to get into the plan ahead mindset?
Interestingly there was an article on Joe Abercrombie’s site in May last year along similar lines – you can read it here http://www.joeabercrombie.com/2011/05/04/gardening-and-architecture/ – where he places authors into two categories, architects and gardeners. The architects plan and stick to the plan, and the gardeners go with the flow (or as he says write more organically). So I guess I’m not alone in working this way, just sometimes feels like it, which makes me feel somewhat better. But knowing others work the same doesn’t help get that novel written.