Whoever told you that writing is easy lives on a different planet to the one I inhabit. Words don’t flow from my fingertips, even when I’m in the zone. I get there sometimes, hunched over the laptop, tapping away until I run out of ‘what happens next’. I look up and an hour has gone. Or maybe two. I’m happy to get down one thousand words a day, delighted to do fifteen hundred and right chuffed to break two thousand. Three thousand is usually a bridge too far for my arthritic fingers. They complain at me and demand overtime or (even worse) go on strike, so I find it’s better to call it a day and start afresh in the morning.
What I can’t do is write before I know where I’m going.
And that basically means I’ve walked around the garden, spruiking my dialogue to any tree or bush or passing bird willing to listen. Sometimes that’s an impossible hurdle. I know I want that scene where there’s the big confrontation, but I want THIS character to be there, and I can’t quite see how I’m going to make that happen. So I pull a weed, tell myself I really ought to trim that new growth, promise myself to get out there with the glysophate. And oh, it’s low tide and the sea will be calm – where’s my camera? And no writing gets done.
Do you have any idea how frustrating that is? I’ve got nine novels out there – NINE. I can DO this. I know how. Don’t I?
So I tried to work out which book had been easiest (easiest – huh) to write, and why. They were the ones where I had a pretty good notion of a plot because they were based on real events. To Die a Dry Death, and Kuralon Rescue. Oh – and A Matter of Trust was pretty easy, because I wrote it a writer’s eon ago, so mainly it was just editing. Well – rewriting, really. I’m good at that.
How had I written the others, though? Morgan’s Choice at one hundred thousand words and more? Morgan’s Return? The Iron Admiral? Starheart? I’m not a plotter. But I’ve just outed myself as being not quite a pantser either, so how?
Through many drafts. Many chapters written and discarded, others written and changed so much they didn’t look like the original. I wrote about that journey with the Iron Admiral books. And – here’s the epiphany – I DIDN’T WRITE THEM IN ORDER.
That is, I didn’t start at the beginning and keep going until I reached the end. I wrote the chapters as they occurred to me, and went back and edited to fill in the scene transitions, or bounced in my chair going ‘oo oo oo’ because I’d thought of a nifty new plot idea. I used Word to write each chapter in a document, then arranged the chapters in the order I wanted. And re-arranged them. And tossed one out and rearranged again… you get the picture.
So I’m going back there. I’m writing the scenes as they jump out and slap me on the bum, and as I do that those floating strands of scenes bump into each other and weave together and coalesce until I have a veritable solar system of planetoids of plot circling my head. It’s kind of the SF equivalent of the little red engine.
I think I can
I think I can
I think I can
I KNOW I CAN
Twenty-five thousand words written. I won’t say I’m on a roll, but the floating strands of scenes are starting to collide.