I have discovered something about myself over recent weeks. I’ve discovered I’m not a jump in and just get on with it kind of author.
I don’t know why this came as such a surprise. Everything else I have ever written has been properly planned out – except for those news stories in the old days when I was a newspaper reporter and had to dictate back fast-moving events on the spot.
In a previous post I may just have touched on the fact that I’m writing a new crime novel. It’s a story that has been rattling around in my head for close on two years. The main characters and storyline were so familiar to me that I thought all I had to do was to start typing and the whole thing would flow quite naturally.
But I was wrong. BIG TIME!
Nothing was working. Everything I wrote just read like so much rubbish. It’s difficult to keep ploughing on when you feel like that. I mentioned my plight on Facebook, and lots of lovely writing friends came back full of support and advice. They were all basically saying the same things – “take a step back” “know where your characters are going” “don’t give up”.
I listened to all of them and realised the real reason the book wasn’t working was because I had started writing too soon. I wasn’t ready. The book wasn’t ready. I hadn’t done nearly enough preparation.
I know many writers don’t like planning beyond the basic synopsis, but I hadn’t even done that properly. I didn’t have any written character profiles. And, well yes, I have to admit it; I simply didn’t have a clue where I was going.
For various reasons, some happy, some not so happy, I haven’t been writing for several months, and now, reading back what I had written, I really believed I had lost to knack. Not a great feeling for any writer. But I took everyone’s advice on board and gave myself some time off.
When I came back to the book it was from a different angle. This time I did my planning. I thought about it, and wrote those character profiles and timelines. I drafted out a proper synopsis, made a rough plan for how that could be spit up into scenes and chapters, and finished the bits of research I needed.
That’s all done now and I am feeling in a much better place. My plan isn’t so rigid that it can’t be changed. And I know that once I get going the characters will take over and could steer the book in a completely different direction from what I’d planned. But that’s fine. That will tell me the writing is working. I can’t wait to get started again.
If any of my experience sounds familiar, please do leave a comment and let us all know how you coped with the situation, and what steps you took to get back into the writing zone.