Yeah, well, sometimes my process is stupid. Why? Well, I’ve been doing again what I swore never to do – moving my characters to suit my plot. Gah! It’s so insidious. You have a great idea for a scene perhaps mid-way through the book and because you love the idea of this scene so much, you start moving your characters towards it instead of letting it evolve naturally. At least that’s what I’ve been doing. You’d think I know by now that when suddenly all the scenes get very hard to write and I feel like I’m wading through wet cement, it’s a sign I’m pushing my characters not the other way round. But no, it’s like ‘Why is this scene so hard to write? Why aren’t they doing what they’re told? Why can’t I get that lovely, flowy thing going? Argh!’ *chucks keyboard across the room*
This is what happens when a die-hard pantser has to plot. Or when an impatient writer is desperate to write the ‘good bits’.
I think for a lot of the past year, I’ve been trying to get back to the way I used to write. Which was having no idea for plot etc, just writing as it comes, finding out what was going to happen when my characters did. Which was fine. Until it came to revising something and then I realised that actually, craft wasn’t there just to confuse me and make me feel annoyed. It was there because if you want to work with an editor and possibly get published, you kind of have to know the nuts and bolts of how to put a story together. Certainly you have to if you want to stay published. The problem with learning craft is that it can get in the way of how you write. You’re so worried about conflict/character arc/structure etc, etc, that it can act as a barrier and totally kill your spark.
The mss I wrote last year were a case in point. It’s like weaving a tapestry that you used to do totally by instinct and now you actually have to look at what you’re doing. Make sure you’ve got enough blue threads, not too many reds, put in a bit of green, but watch out for too much yellow. Oh and not forgetting that you need a little bit of purple because ahead there’s a design you want to do that has LOTs of purple in it so you have to put it in now. And because you’re worrying so much about all the different threads, before you know it, your lovely weaving is just a paint by numbers job, not a fabulous, organic, creative bit of art.
Anyway, the point of this is that I need to get to a point where I can incorporate the craft I’ve learned, with my instinct. And that means not pushing your characters forward because you want to write a really good argument/love scene/black moment. Or because you need to get them to this point so you can have this particular scene (you would not believe the problems I had trying to incorporate a strip chess scene in my Chessman ms. It was SO hard. In the end I took it out because I realised my characters were trying to tell me something – they didn’t want to play bloody strip chess!). For me I need to be with them in the moment, not think about what more I have to do for their characters arcs or how I’m going to work out their conflict etc etc. If I know my characters well enough, it’ll work out. I have to trust my instinct more. Oh and probably stopping being so damn impatient would help too!
So, anyone else learned anything interesting about their process?