Monday, January 06, 2020

Ploughing the Field

I'm so impressed with fellow-Type Mers like Donis and John who have gone on with their determination to write every day, no matter what, right through the festive season. That admirable habit failed with me around mid-December when with the entire family coming for Christmas I realised that it was a choice between having a clean house, food in the fridge and freezer and no work done and having a thousand or two words written, plus chaos and a nervous breakdown where I just kept mumbling wildly, 'Mince pies! Christmas pudding! Home-made fudge...'

So I've been a bit of a slacker lately, but now I feel the better for the break. As it happened, Christmas came along at just the right time, when I felt I'd done all I could on the new book in the way of planning.

We've all talked a lot about being planners or pantsers and at heart I'm a pantser, usually prepared to set off once I've got the first couple of chapters ready to roll and a vague idea of what the ending will be (usually wrong) but this time I thought I would try looking a bit further ahead, attracted by the notion that once you had blacked it all out in summary, the book itself would be a doddle.

To be honest, it just didn't do it for me. I even tried that theory of writing one paragraph, then expanding it to a page, then a chapter and so on... By the time I'd got on to the second stage, I was completely revising what I'd written in the paragraph, and the chapter never happened. All it seemed to be doing was stopping the flow and making me panic that it wouldn't happen, ever.

Still, I did spend a lot of the planning time doing research that I'm inclined to postpone until I need the details on the way through. I checked out possible names for the characters I have in mind, instead of grabbing for a baby names dictionary every time a new character is introduced and thumbing desperately through it (there are people who actually call a helpless baby Zipporah?). I've got to know the characters themselves better now by living with them without putting them under pressure - though of course once I actually start writing they will change. They always do. I even have lots of ideas and snatches of dialogue written down ready for use later.

So I'm starting the new decade with the new book, ready to find out what the story is really about. And yes, to some extent it feels as if I've got the field ploughed ready for sowing but the drive that keeps me writing – to find out what happens in the end – is still there.

January gets a bad name, but I like it. After the frenzy of the festive season I'm looking forward to all of its 31 quiet days, when it's just me and the new book

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