When it comes to writing, I’ve always considered myself a Pantser – one of those people who write by instinct, into the mist. I start with a character or a couple of characters, a setting … and off I go. If during, or at the end of, the writing process I feel there is a problem with some section I’ll mull it over, perhaps let a critique partner have a look, and try to change it – again by instinct.
|Part of the story plot spreadsheet - will it work?|
Now, thanks to my editor and friend Claire Watts, I’ve decided to try a new approach. I don’t know if it will work, or if I’ll repeat it after this initial experiment, but I’m going to try plotting. It's sort of backwards-plotting, as I have already written the book, but it's a start. I'm breaking down my current wip into detailed scenes, analysing each one, and trying to see if that way, objectively, I can pin-point what is and isn’t working.
It’s really amazing when you start to see where the holes are in your story. And then of course you think – why couldn’t I see that before? Obviously a genius or a natural-born storyteller would do this automatically. Someone like me needs more of a hand – or maybe just a kick up the backside. I’ve been so concerned about making my writing realistic that I’ve sometimes forgotten that I am a storyteller and that The Story Comes First. Commercial fiction, which is what I write, must work first and foremost on the level of the story. And I realise that sometimes I’d been forgetting that …
So far I’ve broken the work down into 98 scenes, although some of those are linked so it’s probably more like 40 - 50 scenes. Now I’m analysing each one. When you start writing notes to yourself like ‘what is the point of this scene?’ or ‘check this actually works?’ you feel you have finally got to the nub of what you need to do. The next question is – can I do it?
My main concern is that this process will change my writing from being (I think) deeply felt but sometimes drifting, to feeling manufactured. I definitely don’t want manufactured! What I’m aiming for is deeply felt but properly focussed. Has anyone else tried this approach? Watch this space for how I get on!