I started a story in March. Typical me, rushing in with only the bare bones of an idea and a couple of sentences of plot. It lasted two chapters and a half before my enthusiasm and attention tapered off.
I didn’t pick up the threads of the story until July when I came home from America. ‘Right,’ I thought, ‘I’ll make this into a short Novela and have it finished by August. 30,000 words will do the trick.’
Using three sheets of paper from an A5 notebook, I plotted Acts One, Two and Three, using mind map bubbles. Act One was written with ease, Act Two is now officially done.
And then I was unfortunate enough to take a good look at Act Three and think, ‘Well, this isn’t going to work.’
It was too skeletal, too bare. And also only enough for a handful of chapters, certainly not for a conclusive and satisfactory third act.
Which leaves me with the task of plotting a coherent and interesting Act Three that ties the story together and finishes the tale in a manner that leaves me with a satisfied sigh.
So now I’ve got a fresh sheet of paper, a pen (a beautiful, brand new, amazing pen that is a dream to write with) and the question ‘What If-?’ to throw at every scenario.
I was impatient – I wanted to finish The Many Trials; to get it done. Over with. Complete. Move on to something else. And it seemed such a chore to do so.
I’m sure that you can see the error in my thinking – I didn’t though, and it took me awhile untill it ‘clicked’.
Why on earth was I worrying about getting it done? Why did it feel so hard to plonk one word in front of the other? Why was I beginning to loathe it?
I’d forgotten, you see.
I’d forgotten that writing isn’t about finishing it. Sure – doing so is, you know, just a teeny bit important. But there is no use in finishing a novel which drops like a dead weight around the neck at the very thought of completing it. It was like one of those awful dreams where you want to run, but are stuck in an invisible pool of glue and cannot move.
I’d forgotten to enjoy it – to love telling my tale. Forgotten the thrill of a funny piece of dialogue, a humourous description or an emotional scene.
And that is a rather big thing to forget.
So have patience, Young Grasshopper – you’ll reach the End. But what use is there in reaching the ending when the journey there has been dry and devoid of any enjoyment? Enjoy it. Put heart in every scene. Give colour to the voyage, and those who reach the End will be left with the longing to read just one page more.
I watched the African Queen recently and stumbled upon a marvelous idea (and no, it didn’t involve blowing up a German ship).
Dialogue, descriptions and action all form parts of a story – as I write these they come to life in my head, I don’t see them with the physical eye; they are just black words against a white screen … but, perhaps there is a way to ensure that there are (for example) no completely unrealistic descriptions of people’s expressions included in my tale – descriptions which could otherwise jerk one out of the story and into the world of ‘what on earth? That doesn’t happen in real life.”
What is this Marvelous Idea, you ask?
Simples … watch a movie and write out a single scene.
Now in the clip above there are two scenes (the second begins at 2:44). It doesn’t have to brilliant or even there in its entirety. Just a sentence or two, a few words here or a brief description there … just write it – or (and this is more realistic for me) write it in your head. Describe the scene and the way you would show the expressions flitting across their faces, how the bottles bob in the water or the screech of the monkeys that in no way aids poor Charlie’s hangover. Or perhaps how Rosie is indeed one of the best characters ever.
‘… she was the very dignified picture of righteous indignation …’
This can be taken to life – to everyday living. Watch someone as they are talking, walking or simply just being and think how you would describe them (and if you can do this without getting odd looks you get extra brownie points).
Personally, I don’t think you have to have pen in hand, or fingers to the keyboard to keep that ol’writerly mind ticking – look around you, not with eyes blinded by everything you have to do that day, but with eyes seeing – sunbeams through a window, the fierce sound of the wind in the trees, the clatter of many keyboards in the office, that piece of litter rolling in the road, the cars whizzing by, that person immersed by their mobile or even that beautiful, warm smell of the fish and chip shop.
Take a moment, form a sentence and you just might be surprised with the result.
For me, it helps – I mean, seriously how else would I have thought that when the wind blowing my skirt felt like a soft cushion pressing at the back of my legs? (for some reason that leaves me breathless … oh comma where art thou, dost thou belong in there?)
At the moment, I’m writing in the fantasy genre. I also love languages and find them absolutely fascinating to study – but to make up one of my own? Without randomly bashing at the keyboard?
Um, no. No, I can’t.
My characters talk in plain ol’English. However, this doesn’t stop me having a little fun with the idea that these characters aren’t speaking/writing/reading in English …
Behind her, over shadowing the Halli lands, were the great peaks of the Mal a’La. There is a controversy amidst the scribes of the Great Country as to whether the translation of Mal a’La is “the mountains which are most steep” or “the Mountains of Steepness”. Either way, t’is no great matter, a Halli would merely shrug his shoulders – for him, they were mountains and they were steep: the Mal a’La.
A Halli was not one to dabble in such convoluted matters. The girl, for example, was named B’aa. The Great Country scribes would have, should they have learned of her name, agonized over whether the name meant “the most sufficient” or “that which is full of sufficiency”.
They would never have dreamt that her father was a shepherd and her mother, full with child, had been walking with her husband amidst the flock when the child had come. The father had – untroubled by a lack of inspiration – named his child after the noise which encircled her when she first met the world – B’aa.
I don’t have the ability to make up a language but I can still give the impression that English isn’t their mother tongue.
OR … I could bypass all the verbs and adjectives and grammar and a thousand other Important Things and write a language with beautiful simplicity – like this:
“Hiflsfjaldsij,” said I (that’s Nesskingsleyian for “Thank you for reading this post. May you be blessed with noodles, flying pigs and a flat screen tel-” er … on second thoughts … I think I’m mistranslating it).
Oh! I have a question … you see that splendid comic up there – I found it on Pinterest … however what I would like to know if it’s perfectly fine to take a pin off-site and use it in a blog post? I’m unsure and if anyone could help me on this it would be gratefully appreciated.
Writing … have you seen how many resources there are for us writers?
There are pages and pages, videos, podcasts, books and more books. All there – waiting to be read, watched and listened to.
And then comes the awe as in I’m a writer! – that kind of awe. And with awe comes fear, I’m a writer, noooooooooowhat-if-it’s-rubbish?! – that kind of fear.
Often the writer is greeted by the whole mustplanoutcharacterchartsandstartworldbuilding rush.
But … ‘member when you where younger? When you planned and built the entire village for your dolls in preparation for that brilliant moment when the story would begin … only to find out that it was bed time the very instant you began to play?
There isn’t a formula for producing a novel, no set way to writing awesome tales but … there is a secret; one certain key to success.
“What is that?” You ask.
Simples, my friend; plop yourself down on that chair and grab a pen and paper (or keyboard and screen, whichever you prefer) and write.
You can clean it up later, you can pull it all to pieces and build it again.