As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently well (15,500 words) into ‘A Vengeance of Angels’ (the sequel to ‘Construct’) and I’m re-discovering the joy of ‘pantsing’.
The writing is flowing well, still closely following the bamboo and creeper framework that I’d lashed together over a year ago when I was still begging agencies to consider ‘Construct’.
And this time around, I’m pleased to report, the writing feels different; more enjoyable.
With a year’s worth of editing experience behind me, I have a clearer picture of the process from the first rough scratches through to the finished product.
I now know that I can roll along, throwing down my ideas, comfortable in the knowledge that not everything I put into words will get used. And with this comes a new kind of freedom from worry.
I don’t have to doublethink every sentence; every word uttered by my characters. This time around I am aiming for continuity, rough adherence to the (flexible) framework but with a firm path towards the planned ending.
It’s refreshing to know that I don’t have to fret about what I’m writing – that can all be sorted out once the First Draft is complete – following the mandatory month-in-the-drawer, naturally. What matters is that the ideas are recorded before they are lost to the white noise that is my ever-fizzing brain.
Experienced hands will already be aware of all this, so please forgive the egg-sucking instructions.
However, newbies may still (as I did) become mired in the spiralling hell that is the ‘must get that paragraph perfect before I move on’ routine.
Just pound that keyboard and pour all your relevant ideas onto that hard drive, pushing headlong until you have reached the end of your story. That will then give you something to work with; something complete.
And if your Muse throws Chapter Two ideas at you when you’re racing through Chapter Ten, then by all means nip back, drop in a paragraph close to where it’s relevant and get right back to Chapter Ten. Don’t (as I did) waste time and effort ‘blending it in’. Just drag, drop and get on with it. The idea will still be there in six months (more realistically, a year) when you are reviewing what you’ve written.
I regret now that I spent so much time ‘polishing’ what was essentially an unfinished product – a bit like applying sealant to a bath that was not only still in its packaging, but still on the delivery wagon.
If your story turns out to be anything like mine, in a year’s time, some of those ‘brilliant’ ideas may no longer be relevant. Your character will (ideally) have grown as you’ve been writing and your original plan for them to rescue that drowning child in Chapter Two might no longer be in character for them. You may need your character to be tortured and regretful by Chapter Twenty and NOT rescuing that child may be exactly what forces that character change.
So this is the point where, as they say, you don’t sweat the small stuff. Not yet.
That comes later, once you’ve established all the motivations of your characters and where your story is heading…
Then begins the blood, sweat, tears and fingernail a la crue.
Writing is only the first part of the process. Embrace the whole.
Have you found that your approach to writing alters with experience?
What one piece of advice (post-it note sized only) would you give to your inexperienced self if you could get a message back to them using Sandra Bullock’s magical post box (The Lake House, 2008)?