Plot noodling

Mostly at Sunday Writer we concentrate on getting the words down on paper (it doesn’t have to be good, yet: it just has to exist).

How do you do that?  Well first of all you have to have some idea of where you are going – “I am writing a taxpunk novel about a heroic group of people fighting to defend the change from capitalism to a new financial system”, or “I am writing a PhD thesis about the interplay of better regulation and tax simplification” (to take two examples entirely at random *wink*).  What is your book about?  You don’t need to know everything that is going to happen, you just have to know the basics – is it fiction or non-fiction?  Science fiction?  Romance?

Then you need to know what happens next.  (If you haven’t started writing yet, call that what happens first)  You know.  New people are moving into the stately home next door.  There’s a dead body on the bridge.  I woke up one morning and I’d turned into a bug.  That kind of thing.  What we will do on Sunday at the workshop is to start from that scene and head out towards that ending.

You could think of it like a career plan or a life goal.  I want to be a pilot.  I want to grow some peonies.  You know vaguely where you want to go.  Ok, so what’s the first thing you need to do to get there?  I need to find out what qualifications I need.  I need to find out how to grow peonies.

At Sunday Writer you will work on getting from The First Thing towards The End Point, by way of capturing a lot of words that are heading in the right direction, without stopping to do all that research that will suck you into days of clicking around the internet.  You’ll tell yourself it doesn’t matter if your paragraphs are littered with [insert research here] and [the character we met in chapter three, whose name I’ll go back and look up later, honest]. You’ll separate out the researching from the writing.  You’ll spend the day writing: the other stuff you can fix later.

So what is plot noodling and why am I telling you about it now?

Plot noodling is sitting staring vaguely into space with your headphones on, letting your mind wander.  You know your book starts with (say) the eligible rich guy moving in next door, and you know it’s a romance so it most likely ends with the hero and the heroine getting married.  Let your mind wander around what happens along the way.  You know where you start and where you finish: what happens after that?  How winding is that road?  Is there an interesting place to stop and visit?

Plot noodling is thinking time.  Plot noodling is travelling that long and winding road from the beginning to the end, so that, when your fingers are flying over the keyboard on Sunday, they have some interesting places to go.

If you are coming to Sunday Writer this weekend, you’ll need to bring your laptop and your favourite pen (and, if you’re dropping in rather than buying a ticket in advance, your lunch!)  But it will help you a lot if you have let your mind wander around the landscape of your book in advance.  Go on, make a cuppa and sit and think for a while.

Advertisements

The Inner Critic

One of the biggest blocks to Just Getting On With The Writing (JGOWTW) is the inner critic.  You know; that voice in the back of your head that tells you what you’ve written is no good. Sometimes it starts before you have put the words onto the paper, perhaps before you have begun to type them, maybe even while the words are going through your head on the way to your fingers.

The best way I have found of getting past that is just that: to go past it.  You tell your inner critic that you aren’t actually writing, as such – just doing a bit of typing.  You get a lot of words onto paper in the full knowledge that most of them will be the wrong words, will be incoherent, ill-chosen, incomprehensible.  And then you go back and fix them later.

Surprisingly, when you come back to your incoherent Draft Zero a few weeks later, more often not you find that it’s not half as bad as you think.  And the bits that are?   That’s why we have word processors and not manual typewriters.  Delete, and replace.  Eventually you get to the final draft…

…if you know when to stop.  But that’s a whole other blog entry!