Forget The Plan
Writing a novel involves many skills, from creating the concept to perfecting the punctuation: and pulling all of these together is an art in itself.
That’s why many authors depend on a detailed plan, something that will act as a kind of road map so they don’t get lost and go adrift as they weave their story.
But, forgetting the actual ‘writing’ skills for the moment, I believe there’s something even more important when it comes to joining up the dots and making sure all the pieces fit.
Before I explain, a disclaimer: I’m not that good at planning. I prefer the more ‘organic’ style of writing… e.g. take an idea (or three) and then go with the flow. I can put together an outline for a book and a structured chapter plan but something else always occurs to me along the way and then, as discussed in Melissa Bowersock’s guest post, the book goes off on its own tangent.
No, for me the most important thing is continuity.
The Tale Of Findo Gask is the story of a child thief growing up in poverty in a British city at the end of the 20th century. When writing the book, I didn’t want to set it in any particular town as the story was about Findo not where he lived.
But, for my story to work, it had to be believable. Which meant my creation had to be consistent. My ‘plan’ never left my head. However, what I did set down on paper was full names and dates of birth for every character. I also drew a detailed street map of the city – complete with roads, railways, river and major buildings.
Findo’s adventures evolved as I wrote the book but I had to be certain that what I was writing was feasible within the parameters that I’d set for him.
My new novel King’s Port Rock is going to be the first part of a series of stories – The Black Island Chronicles – set on a remote (and eccentric) British outpost that’s been ruled by one family for a couple of hundred years. Again I’ve got a map on the desk next to me, plus a family tree that stretches back nearly three centuries.
The detail of the book is still unclear. I know where the novel is ultimately going although how it gets there is a mystery. What is important is that basic facts about people and places don’t change – if Arthur Judd is 34 in 1998 then he can’t be 37 in the year 2000. Equally, if Beacon Hill is 500ft tall in Chapter Three it has to be the same height by Chapter Ten.
Well, that is unless I introduce some major explosions/volcanic eruptions/seismic action etc… hmm… new idea now forming…
I did say the plan could change didn’t I?