Last year, I posted a picture of the plan for novel the first (NTF). I use the word plan in vain: what I had was a loose timeline with a few important events marked in and something a little bit like a mind-map that explained something about some of the characters.
At the time, that felt like a plan, even a pretty detailed one. But it wasn’t. I found this out when I got stuck for the first time and looked back at the multi-coloured lines to see if there was a solution there. There wasn’t. Of course not: one of the colourful blobs that had filled me with such satisfaction when I first drew the plan said ‘other big event’. That’s a problem, not a solution. Identifying problems upfront when you start a project is useful but it is not the same as solving them. This happens when I plan: I get so far, then I realise that something else is needed but I’m not sure what that something is. (I once submitted a partial story to my writer’s group with the word ‘epiphany’ where said event needed to go. I wasn’t sure what it would be, but I knew I needed one.) Then, being an eager kind of person, I get writing, powering through the parts that I know something about and writing myself into a corner.
At one point, I tried to make a better plan and wrote a chapter breakdown. I got a detailed breakdown of the first half. That was the half I’d already written. So, not really a plan.
I learned a lot writing NTF, but I need to learn more before I get something I can send out. That’s why I’m moving on to novel the second. This time I’m planning it properly. Yes, the first draft of my plot spreadsheet looked something like the colourful drawing I made last time, but as I’ve revised it, questions have popped up (and a few answers – so far mostly to events in NTF, so yay!, there’s hope for it still.) and I’m forcing myself to deal with them. This time, I’m thinking about pacing and emotions before I start writing. I hope this will give me a better book. Practice isn’t just doing the same thing again and again but changing your technique to improve it. Hence my tweaking from a more planned approach – pantsing it, to miss-quote Chris Hill, didn’t work for me, so I need to change something. I also think I need to be more focussed, to think about it more, and work faster, so I’m allowing this story to take over most of my spare brainpower.
Obsession, planning and focus. It’s the way forward.