Tag Archives: stratford-upon-avon

Plotting and planning the novel

Sky Post-itsPhil: No one tells you when you start writing a book that it’s all going descend into the sort of project management hell that you thought you’d escaped from at work. Surely the process involves our author hero sitting down before a freshly opened notebook, licking the end of the pen and starting to write?

Nope. It seems that everyone is planning these days. There’s this interesting post over at Novelicious.com for example. Or perhaps you feel inspired by seeing how Emylia Hall works out her next novel. JK Rowling produced a paper spreadsheet for Harry Potter.

Writing a novel it seems, should be approached as a “project” as much as an artistic endeavor. That’s certainly what Candice and I felt as we sat in the sunshine outside a Stratford-upon-Avon pub a few weeks ago. We knew the story we wanted to tell. We know our characters. We just weren’t happy with the structure.

Since we’ve both worked on proper work projects and have some clue about how all this works, the concept of book as project isn’t alien to us. Maybe if we’d been the sort of arty-farty floaty types who are supposed to do this sort of thing we’d not think this way, but we aren’t, so we do. In fact we both said the phrase, “We need a whiteboard” at the same time.

If you work in an office this sort of kit is readily available but not many have it at home. You can do just as well with Post-It notes and a couple of days later, that’s what we did. I summarised each chapter while Candice wrote notes on each bit of sticky paper. The glass walls of the conservatory were soon covered with our story in yellow paper form.

All this enabled us to track the plot strands. There is a fairly important plot element that appears in the first few pages and then not for about half the book. That’s fixable.

Likewise, the relationship between our two main characters  needs an extra turning point and we are looking where this should take place. As it happens, we’ll be using some plot set-up that used to be clogging up the beginning of the manuscript and is now to be dragged through the book being hinted at along the way and becoming the resolution to a mystery the reader will hopefully be puzzling over as we go.

What we had done is expose ourselves to “the big picture” instead of concentrating on details on the page. By juggling a few Post-Its we have spotted holes in the plot and explored better sequences for some scenes.

Is this an unromantic way of working?

Undoubtedly. If you are writing just for fun then forget whiteboards and spreadsheets. Just start to scribble and enjoy the process. We though, see ourselves as (one day) commercial authors and that’s going to require a different approach. This starts with doing the absolute best we can with the story. After that we’ll work hard on the marketing of our “product”. The payoff will hopefully be that people buy the story and thoroughly enjoy it. A smile on a face, or a good review is our aim.

Basically, what we’ve found is that succesful writers are like swans. On the surface it all looks so easy. Under the water, there’s all sort of stuff going on that you, the reader, don’t need to see.


Filed under Phil, Writing

How to get published…again

Candice:Last year, Phil and I went to an event called “How to get published.”  Organised by the esteemed publication, the writers and artist yearbook. We came away with lots of ideas about our writing style, what might work when writing to an agent, and how it’s all really a game as there are no right or wrong answers.  We also learned alot about our fellow writers, their thoughts, approaches and dress sense. (Nice Mulberry bag not essential but  a bonus).

Nearly one year on and we have a few more rejection letters under our belt, some more feedback from our readers and some suggestions for a rewrite.  In fact, I had another idea about an approach when I was out running the other day, but I am going to keep that between me and Phil for our next catch up.  So, we thought we have a dip into this how to get published malarky again, just to keep us fresh.

Tonight we are off to an event that is part of Stratford Literary Festival so see if some of the Bard’s success will rub off on us. We’ll let you know how we get on.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends….

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Filed under Candice, Writing