Sunday, 30 October 2011

Chapter plans and floors of books

I am fed up with starting my blogs posts by declaring how many chapters I've written this week, so this time I'm not going to.  I'm taking a stand.  So there!  That's shown my own brain who's boss.

I pondered in my last blog post the merits of writing a chapter-by-chapter plan for the rest of Hide and See.  This week, I did it, plotting out chapters 32-51 in a lovely neat little table.  My previous plan - just a handwritten flowchart jobby which didn't have any sense of length/word count etc - fitted in surprisingly well.  I was worried I'd have to cut out various chunks in order to get to the point I needed to reach by the end but (so far!) this hasn't been necessary.

Now I guess I have to see how it all comes out when I actually write it.  I've done these table-plan-thingies before and have had to alter them mid-story as plots change or my inability-to-shut-up kicks in again.  There's lots I need to fit in with the background mythology (how much do I include?) and characterisation (oh how I loathe thee) but I guess it's all a question of balance.

With my vague ideas of a sequel (or is that a whole trilogy my mind is whispering about?) colouring my thinking, I know that there is plenty of opportunity to say less.  With the mythology, for instance.  My characters - from a plot point of view - can't know everything in the first book, or else what more would there be to discover?  And yet I can't leave my (imaginary) readers thinking 'what the bloomin' heck was all that about?' (Because, yes, my imaginary readers are all clones of Dick Van Dyke).

I sometimes wish I had spare wall-space so that I could hang a pinboard, to plot out my story in a well-organised and coherent manner.  Then I realise that could never happen for the same reason as it hasn't happened: every spare patch of wall is, and probably always will be, covered with bookshelves.

I bought a new book today and I didn't even leave the house.  Oh Amazon, why are you so easy to use, even for a dinosaur like me?  And where shall Shiny New Book go?  Probably on one of the growing floor-piles now that there is no room on the shelves.  Who needs to see the carpet anyway?

Sunday, 23 October 2011

We need to plan this, people!

This week's chapter total is... *drum roll*... 2 and a bit!!  Woo!!  Still a bit crap but, if we're doing the positive thing again, more than double what I did last week!

I quite enjoyed these chapters too.  While they started off in the slower pace I'd established, we're now back with the action - right in the middle of it at the moment actually - and I'm glad it's returned.  Talking as if it's someone else who is deciding the story rather than me.  Because I'm a little crazy (but I think we covered that last week).

I'm slightly worried that I might be going into too much detail though.  I've had this action bit planned out for a while but, although the bits preceding it haven't felt superfluous, I do feel like it's taken longer than I expected to reach this point.  I get too into the descriptions or conversations maybe.  But - second voice-in-my-head argues - those conversations imparted some very important information.  AND a frequent criticism of earlier chapters was a lack of description.

So the conclusion I've almost come to is to write a chapter plan, stating clearly what I need to happen when.  I'm aiming at fifty-one chapters (why not fifty?  Because I'm strange, we've been through this!) thus bringing the unedited word count to a approximately 100k.  Unfortunately (sort of) I've just started Chapter 31 which means I really don't have that many left.  And while I have already started planning vague ideas for the sequel (again, me = insane) I still need to get to a certain point at the end of this novel.

This chapter plan should, therefore, make sure I don't go rambling too much.  Note the word 'should' there.  Fingers crossed and grab the rabbit's appendage.  I think some major rewriting - or rethinking - is going to be needed before the end.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Writers are Bonkers

Last week's disappointment at having written only one-and-a-bit chapters has been beautifully overshadowed by my having written less than one chapter this week.  I basically took the 'bit' from last week and finished it off to make Chapter 28.  Should I wallow in a pit of self-loathing at this pathetic lack of progress or should I continue to go with my mantra of 'well at least it's better than nothing'.

Despite what many people (or perhaps just my father) seem to think, I do have a tendency towards optimism so I'm going to go with the latter option.  It is better than nothing.  It's a lot worse than what I would have hoped to do (say, three chapters) but it's still something.  And when I completed said chapter this afternoon I was pleased with how it went and had that little post-writing glow which I've been experiencing all too infrequently of late.  But it was there.  Yay for the glow!

I would like to be writing more - and will once more optimistically aim to do better this week - but given my state of mind at the moment I'm pretty lucky to be producing anything.

And why have I been the Queen of Grumpiland this week?  Job-hunting, that's why.  I knew the job market was bad but seriously?  All the jobs out there seem to fall into one of three categories:

1) Jobs I am not and will never be suitable for (e.g. truck driver, doctor, accountant)

2) Jobs I may well be qualified for in ten years time (e.g. archive assistant, museum worker, historical researcher, librarian)


3) Jobs I could perhaps be qualified for now but will most likely bore the living crap out of me (admin assistant, receptionist, secretary)

Why did I go to uni again?  And why did I go back to uni again?  Oh yeah, because I'm INSANE.

Not that I regret going to uni, or going back.  Because I embrace my insanity with open arms, ladies and gentleman.  It would appear that I enjoy nothing so much as studying.  If only it were a job.  I have plenty of experience (having done little else for my entire life), I like doing it and I'm not too bad at it (although some recent MA marks have made me doubt this last part).  So, does anyone know of a way to get paid for going to uni for the rest of my life?  Anyone?  No?

If only writing was an actual proper job - you know, one with which I could produce an income in a reliable, consistent way.  Won't stop me doing it, mind.  Because this is me, embracing the insanity.  Come here insanity, I want to give you a hug.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Slow-Moving Chapters

This week I have written one-and-a-bit chapters.  If I'm being honest with myself, this is rather crap.  But hey, bright side and all that, at least it's better than nothing.

So much for last week's excitement about writing Hide and See.  This hasn't disappeared completely - I haven't collapsed into a never-ending vortex of writer's block depression - but my enthusiasm for it has diminished a little.  I still like my plot and my characters (despite their apparent lack of development) so I'm hoping I can keep pegging away at it, even if it is at a painfully slow pace.

My dissertation contained some fairly action-packed scenes but the story has slowed down a little now.  This needs to happen - it would be too much to have a constant state of near-panic - but I can't help but feel a little deflated.  Everything's just... quieter.  No gunshots, no explosions, no mad-dash escapes through enemy territory.  Now it's time for more thinking (hopefully this will help towards characterisation!) and the start of explanations about the new world I'm bringing my character into.

It's not only the change in pace I'm struggling with.  I'm also wary about just 'telling' the reader all the background information.   Likewise, I don't want to fall into the trap - as I did in earlier chapters - of explaining everything through dialogue.

I'm tempted to write a chapter-by-chapter plan of the rest of the novel.  The plan I wrote before covers what happens in the later chapters but is simply a flow chart.  I haven't decided how much detail I'll be going into for each part.  I'm worried that I might get too involved in the exposition and waffle away until my (imaginary) readers fall unconscious through sheer boredom.

So, is the chapter-by-chapter plan a good idea?  Or am I just procrastinating?  Delaying the actual writing of the thing?

I miss my writing splurge from August.