A cunning plan

So: Planning. Retrospective planning, no less. I’ve been working my way through my manuscript to work out what exactly happens, when and to whom. Transcribing this info onto a spreadsheet, and then condensing that spreadsheet into another…

If you type ‘novel planning’ into Google (other search-engines are available) you’ll get dozens of results, each advising you to do something slightly different. Read books on writing and every author will recommend their own technique. Ain’t no right answer, baby. I’ve just done something that – sort of – works for me. But it doesn’t feel like writing. I feel the pressure to crack on with things, to get to grips and to get to work. To get back to actual proper creation, to get words down on paper, on the screen.

I need to do this synthesis first. Night Shift, I realise, has structural flaws that need repairing and for that I need to step away from the minutiae and see the full sweep of the novel. What scenes can be cut or combined? Does that leave me with gaps elsewhere? What are the consequences, what am I missing?

This is not fun. It’s painful and slow and – when I encounter particularly acerbic comments from the agent – painful and embarrassing. But it needs to be done.

And now it is. Finally. I have my spreadsheets and it’s time to –

It’s time to do nothing. It’s time to step away from the computer, grab my biro and – hopefully over a cup of joe and maybe a Danish – scribble all over that document. Jot ideas. Cross said ideas out. Make a note of what out-of-shot characters are up to. Be wild and creative and curious and radical. And hopefully come up with a new structure – and maybe new depths of character – that’ll keep the story moving forwards always.

Only then will it finally be time to sit back at the machine and actually do some real writing. And then, and then, and then… Then it’ll be time to go back to the beta readers and call in favours and inquests and beer-based bribes.

It’s quite dispiriting at the moment. I’ve got people – professionals – asking for my work and I’m not in a position to show them anything. Do I stall or give them my last draft – one that I was happy – nay, excited – about? After all, I thought it was good, my readers said it was good… It’ll take months before anything new is ready. Can I keep these professionals hanging on?

But in the meantime it’s to the printer for the plan and then to the coffee shop for the inspiration. Let the head-scratching commence.

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