What I’ve learned: second time around

I have been having great time this week plotting my new novel. I had no idea what I was doing first time around and I’ve gone into this project with a desire to significantly speed up the process. I’m on track to start drafting in earnest next week.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve taken on board that are helping me:

Make it fun

The writer Kim Wilkins gave me this tip in a session at Genrecon last year, painting a picture of herself speard out on the dining room table with a glass of red, working through the machinations of a plot with glee.  

I’ve been so focussed on making writing a discipline sometimes I forget I’m doing it because I love it. Now I indulge in it, involve all my senses, use it as an excuse to go on outings (research). It’s easy to dedicate time to something that you enjoy.

Have a plan for your plan

Not knowing what I was doing, I was scattergun in my approach to plotting. I resisted the idea of a ‘formula’ but recognised there are certain things you have to get right for a story to satisfy. I wrote swathes and swathes of stuff that didn’t really add value because I didn’t really know what I was looking for.

Now I see the value in doing the work up front to solve the key problems in the plot. By developing the skeleton of the plot now, I can focus on the scenes when I start drafting. 

Who does what to whom, where (how?) and why?

I’m also investing time now getting the feel of the main characters, finding their individual voices. Once I have a basic outline, I’ll set a weekly word count target for fleshing out the draft. 

Just conceptualising the volume of work in this way makes it seem  manageable.

Immerse yourself

Give the project physical space in the world. I learned from Twyla Tharp’s method and keep a box of key documents and found objects that capture or reflect elements of creative inspiration. If you have the space, make a wall chart. If not, a scrapbook.

This helps you to drop back into the story world after time IRL. I’m also convinced the physical act of compiling these objects supports the creative process by involving different parts of the brain. 

Get organised

Confession: I haven’t done this yet. At the moment my plotting is taking place haphazardly across three notebooks. But before I start drafting I will produce certain key reference documents: partly to crytallise my thinking, partly to make sure I have a clear map to follow while I’m drafting. 

Anyway, I hope these tips help other aspiring writers out there.

The title of this blog gave me an earworm, so in the spirit of giving, here’s some gratuitous Olivia Newton-John

Check out young Johnny Travolta

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