Background artiste from 'Better than Stars'

Monday, 22 August 2011

Keep Writing, Even if it’s [expletive deleted]!

Desperate Strategies for Getting Started 

Well, I did find a story lurking on my desk. It wasn’t a complete surprise – I knew it was there, but I thought it had died a death. Not a bit of it. Ever since I picked it up, my protagonist has been nagging at me to get on with it. Perhaps this is a time when for once I should shut up and listen. And before I start, I thought it would be useful to remind myself of some strategies for the early stages of a WiP [sounds kinky, but it’s just an acronym for Work in Progress].

This time there will be bullet points on the page. The first one is probably the most important.

·         These are ‘Desperate Strategies’: not because of any element of last hope, but because they (sometimes) work for me.  You may disagree with them, but that’s the nature of writing: what works for one, doesn’t work for everyone. Sorry. Whichever way, I’d like to hear your thoughts.

For what it’s worth, here are the rest:

·         Commit to your idea.

I’ve (more or less) completed three books. That only happened because I learned to tell myself to “keep writing, even if it’s c**p.” Otherwise, they would have ended up in the drawer with all the other novel openings I’ve abandoned.

·         Put some planning in place before you write so much as a sentence on the computer.

This is probably where we’ll really start to disagree, and it threatens to open up a couple of other debates: handwritten vs typewritten first drafts, and planning vs pantsing [writing by the seat of your pants]. I did say these were my strategies ... and suffice to say, if I get a bit ahead of myself, with a general idea of the story arc + a more specific outline for the first three chapters or so, I find point #2 much easier to stick to. I can say to myself, “I know it’s c**p, but you know what’s going to happen, you’ve planned the next chapter, so you might as well carry on.”

·         Tell no-one.

In its embryonic state, a story is a fragile thing. However strong it seems – for me at least – communicating it prematurely will weaken it, probably fatally. So what happens when you have to present and discuss ideas in advance to an agent and/or an editor? All I can say is, I’d love to find out ...


litlove said...

I completely agree with all your points. I'm finally starting a new WIP in September, after havering about what to do for almost a year. I will definitely have some planning in place (but then, I do write non-fiction) and I will not be talking about it to anyone (apart from my husband sometimes - he is an engineer, not at all a literary type, and being forced to explain my ideas to him is always a salutory lesson). And given this is the only idea I've liked in a year long search, I will definitely commit. The very best of luck with your writing!

Kate said...

I defineatly believe in the last one - whenever I have a good diea it seems so obvious that I'm certain someone else will come up with it too if I so much as breathe what it is...

BTW - there's something for you over on my blog :-)