It will probably surprise nobody to learn that I spent yesterday, and will spend today, taking the least sensible of all the writing options open to me; viz., carrying on with my new WiP. I have nothing to offer here in terms of a sensible explanation besides the fact that the story is bashing me around the brain and writing it seems to soothe the savage beast inside my skull.
It’s a little like examining a massive tapestry in a huge, unlit room using only a tiny, weak battery-powered torch. All I can see is the picture which is illuminated by the sputtering beam of light in my hand; the bits still to come are shrouded in darkness. I do know what I want to happen in the story, of course – I have a skeletal plot structure and an ending in mind. The detail, however, and the actual meat of the story which will bring me from where I am now to that wonderful point where I can write ‘The End’, has yet to materialise.
But that’s the fun of it, isn’t it? Isn’t it?
I’m working on a story which I first came up with almost eight years ago, during which time the protagonist was a couple of years younger than she is now and my writing style screamed like something out of the nineteen-fifties. I have a draft chapter of this WiP saved, which I wrote in 2006, and I’m surprised words like ‘balderdash!’ ‘jolly good,’ and – of course ‘lashings of ginger beer!’ (which, apparently, doesn’t actually appear anywhere in Enid Blyton’s oeuvre, despite the stereotype) aren’t studded through it like cloves in a boiled ham. I really find it hilarious that the writing I was doing a few years ago is like something from a different planet – it took me years to shake off the style of writing found in the books I loved to read as a child, and develop a voice of my own.
I’m still not sure I’ve managed it, but I think I’m on the right path at least.
However, I tried to explain this current story to my husband the other night, and I ended up going round and round in a ring of syllables, getting more and more confused. I finished on the word ‘basically,’ which is never a good sign you’ve explained yourself clearly, and he turned to me and said ‘Er. Yeah, that sounds… um.’
I made it sound terrible. Absolutely awful.
Now, admittedly, I’m not very far into the writing of this story yet – fewer than 7,000 words of a first draft currently exist – but, as I said, I do know where I want it to go, more or less. In my head, it all hangs together beautifully. But when I tried to put it into words it came out as something like:
‘So, there’s this pilchard, and it lost its watermelon a few years before in a tragic squash-making accident, and then there’s this spider-thing, with a net, that wants to, you know, catch things, and there’s a bucket and spade which the pilchard really wants and so the spider-thing decides to take it first.’
Clear, non? Of course. I know you guys know what I’m getting at.
It’s important to be able to talk about your work in a way that doesn’t make you sound like you need a long lie-down; summarising your plot and characters should, really, be something you practise from the get-go when you’re writing a book. You never know when you might need to pitch something, after all. Of course, it does help to have written the thing first, and that it’s polished and buffed to as high a shine as you can manage before you start pitching it, but still – always be prepared. It does worry me that a story so clearly outlined in my head can turn into a mouthful of must when I try to explain it, and I hope I’ll be able to do it justice in the future.
I’m also feeling a little like a cobweb in a stiff breeze about this book because I’m taking the same approach as I took for the previous one – ‘Emmeline’ – wherein I knew what I wanted to say, but the story pretty much told itself as it went. I’m trying to rely on my inner pantser, which involves forcibly silencing my far more vocal plotter-persona. So far, the story has set itself in a new location, it has raised the protagonist’s age by at least two – if not three – years, it has developed a whole new set of characters and it has given the Antagonist an entirely new and (if I may say so) deliciously plausible reason for being so Evil. During yesterday’s writing a new character – a boy! – walked into the story and held out his hand in greeting, and I didn’t know his name until I typed it.
So, it was really like meeting someone new for the first time. In a weird, spooky and ‘man, my brain is strange’ sort of way.
And yes, I know I know I should be finishing ‘Eldritch’ (again) and trying to work out just exactly what is wrong with ‘Tider’ and chewing my nails to the quick as I wait for news of ‘Emmeline’, but it’s really hard to resist the lure of a new story.
So, for the moment, I am bending to temptation, and hoping it’s the right decision.