Introduction: The Thirteen Weeks Novel Writing Program
Week 2: First You Catch Your Idea
Week 3: The Plot Wars
Week 4: How to Find the Time for Writing
There is this state you enter in writing that is really hard to explain to anyone who has not entered it. However, I’ve found out that it is something that happens to all creatives, and I’ll try to explain it to you here, in case you’re new to this and have never felt it.
It bears explaining because when it first starts to hit, you might very well feel like you’ve gone around the bend.
As I’ve confessed here, I started out as a very tight plotter. No, not when I first started writing. I know very few authors who are tight plotters when they first start out. You sketch a page, write a beginning, you don’t even have a clue if you’re writing a short story or a novel, and you just keep writing a paragraph after a paragraph, and finally go: “Whoa! I have such and such a length.” At which point you look it up – something that in my day involved, of course, going to the library and consulting the writer’s market, but which can now be done on the net – and decide that you have a short story, a novella, a novelette, or a novel. (Don’t worry too much if you’re concerned about what on Earth all those things mean. They are mostly marketing categories and are passing from this world even as we speak. E-Publishing and print on demand are sweeping all that away.)
What your story was unlikely to have – beyond the words – was a coherent plot. Yes, there are people who are freaks of nature and have read so much that their stories naturally fall into a plot pattern that makes sense.
I wasn’t one of those people, despite having read about six books a day (give or take) between the ages of ten and thirty.
I started with the idea that in a story things happened. So things happened to my character, but they never led anywhere in particular. People got attacked, defeated their attackers, had breakfast, took showers, went shoe shopping, got attacked again…
I didn’t know that wasn’t a plot. It was, after all, a lot like reality, where – regardless of whether you are afraid of being attacked or not – you still have breakfast, shoe shop, take showers, talk to friends, etc.
But plotting is not reality. Reality doesn’t have to be coherent or presented to any purpose – but a story does, because otherwise, what is the point?