Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Plan, A Plot and Some Structure

I've been reading up on different methods of novel planning, 3 arc, 5 part, snowflake, hero's journey, etc, etc, etc.  I'm far too unorganised for my own good so I thought a little planning and structure might not go amiss.  While bits and pieces of various methods are very useful, sticking to a strict plan is not for me.  Even the thought of it is making me bored and tired and meh.  But I decided to try out some stuff.  I keep seeing the Snowflake Method being talked up everywhere I go this week so I thought someone out there must be trying to tell me something, I'll try this first.  First of all you write a one sentence summary of your book.  This one sentence was the hardest thing I've ever had to write in my life.  Seriously.  (And when the first step is oh crap kind of hard, then the rest is probably not going to be any easier.)  How can I not know what my story is about?  Problem is, it's about too many things at the same time, so it's hard to pigeon hole.

That makes me think that my story is not specific enough.  Recently on Nathan Bransford's blog he talked about querying and he said the one mistake people make is not being specific enough.  This is me.  I cannot put a label on things, I can't condense, I can't summarise, I cannot be specific.  Which leads me onto that other novel planning point - the question.  Your story is meant to ask one big question.  The story ends when you answer this question.  So you better make sure you're answering the right question.  (Example being, in a romance novel, the question might be does the boy get the girl?  Boy gets the girl - end of book, ta-da!)

This is also a problem for me.  One big question is boring.  And limited.  (To me.)  I don't like formulas and I don't like knowing what to expect.  I like lots of relatively important story arcs that build up together into some kind of a resolution and yes maybe I am interpreting the One Big Question badly but the idea of planning everything is not flexible enough for me (and pretty soul destroying).  I had a bit of a freak out at 5am yesterday, worrying about my writing being "different" and conveniently forgetting that I'm not trying to be like anyone else.  I'm writing for me and I'm enjoying it at that.  A very sensible person reminded me of that, just in time.

But I see the value of planning and plotting and organising everything.  And I see that I need to do something more structured than sitting down and typing away without a care in the world.  I've been working on sorting out the chapters in one particular novel.  The time line wasn't working out and there were things I had meant to add all along but I wasn't sure exactly where anymore. I've been writing out chapter summaries and including info on time which has made things ten times easier to organise so go me.  It's also taken the fun out of it but I'll ignore that for now.  Point is, that little bit of a plan really helped organise things properly.  Some people have the sense to get organised before they get into their first draft but I think that would inhibit me completely and stop me from finishing anything.  I'd rather fix what I've already written. 

The only problem with, erm, hard work when you have no organisational skills to speak of is that my brain keeps throwing new ideas at me and I end up being completely unable to ignore them.  I don't know how many times I had to stop what I was doing earlier to quickly write down whatever inspiration was smacking me on the head.  My next lesson to learn should probably be focus.  Especially when the fun stuff is over and the hard work begins. 

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