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Novel Hopscotch

I’ve always been the kind of writer who starts at the beginning of a novel and works her way through to the end. In order. This has been the only way for me to write a novel because most of the time I’ve had no idea what happens next. Diving in without an outline usually means you have to put one foot in front of the other to see what happens.

However, Saving Tomorrow is a different beast (in many ways!). I’ve finally pulled all my bits and pieces together (with a little over 3,000 words so far) and have the beginning of the novel outlined. I’ve jumped around quite a bit, playing with different scenes, different characters, and the different ideas that have been hopping through my head.

I’d heard of those people that write scenes out of order. Always thought they were a little crazy, but now I’M one of those people. Me. I never would have predicted this. Never. And yet here I am, with one file, some outline notes and scenes missing or incomplete.

It’s an interesting feeling, knowing that I can throw my stone on a scene that isn’t working for me and just jump right over it for the moment. Sure, I will have to come back and write it later, but maybe I’ll have a better idea of what goes in it if I’ve filled in the scenes around it.

An interesting concept. I’ll let you know if this is the way it works out.

Right now I am filling in the scenes I missed. Adding the last of the characters I need to, working on firming up the beginning of the novel. I’ve made no notes about the middle or the end, though I know the who, where, what and why of the questions at the core of the novel. I know where it ends, I just have to figure out how to get Delaney there in one piece.

In order to try and do this right I am going to flick through Bell’s Plot and Structure again to refresh my memory on what makes a solid novel. I would love if I didn’t have to rewrite this one from scratch 😉

How do you write a novel? Beginning to end, or jumping around like a kid playing hopscotch?

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How I Fail at Short Stories (or used to)

I’ve been looking back at the short stories I have half finished, and have finally clicked onto the thing they have in common – the reason why they aren’t finished right now, and why I am struggling to complete some of them.

I don’t know how they end.

A short story is not the same as a novel, in SO many ways, but in this way more than others (for me). I can start a novel with a few key things, often that doesn’t include knowing how things pan out at the end, or even how the characters will get there. Sometimes, I might have an inkling, but not often.

I’ve started many short stories in the same way. ‘OH! that’s a neat idea’ <opens a new document, types for a bit, gets scene out of her head and then gets distracted/stuck/called away for motherly tasks>. I’ll go back later, and still be stuck, and feel a bit lost, and not really know what I’m doing, then walk away, adding another story to the list of things that remain incomplete.

I used to think that I just sucked at short stories. I just didn’t ‘get’ them, and so struggled to write them.

Not so! I just hadn’t yet discovered that in fact, the best way to write a short story (for me) is to hash it out in my mind before I start writing. I need a beginning, middle AND end to work on a short, because I don’t have months ahead of me to figure out where I’m going. I only have a few thousand words and that method simply doesn’t work outside of novels (and novellas too on occasion).

See, there was a reason that my best short stories were the ones I sat down and wrote start to end in one sitting – I actually knew how those ones ended.

Now that I know this, I’m not going to dive into any brilliant new ideas before I’ve got those bases covered. Unless I have a clear destination in mind, I shall not be writing it.

Funnily enough, I’m discovering more and more often that I know where things end for my longer works these days. I used to struggle with that thought, finding the writing boring because I KNEW where it was going – now I find that the adventure is half the fun.

Besides, you never know what might change on the path towards ‘the end’.