Music: The Rolling Stones – Soul Survivor
Salut, mes petits choux*! I’m new to the chain (sixteen-going-on-seventeen, fractionally British, named Lillian), and quaking under the pressure of trying to write you a satisfactory post. Fun fact: the working title of Pride and Prejudice was ‘First Impressions’—so when you judge me, just remember Colin Firth was destined to play Darcy. (That was a joke.)
So, having introduced you to my caustic wit and romantic insecurity (that was also a joke), I will proceed to answer the prompt question in as concise and riveting a manner as I am able.
“What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started writing?”
When I started writing eludes me (perhaps because it involved the last dinosaur on earth, and that was approximately sixty-five million years ago), but I almost certainly wish I knew how to plot—moreover, that I had to plot! (Interesting that pretty much everyone has mentioned this issue so far.)
A shameless pantser was I, for the first decade or so of my writing life. It worked wonderfully—I scribbled directionless Bildungsromans about families growing up, three generations strong, each chapter a short story of its own, with the pacing of Cranford or Larkrise to Candleford. But agonisingly bloated with exposition!—for how else was I to remember the favourite colours of all the 1,352 characters ornamenting the humongous family tree I’d created? That tree was the best semblance of order my writing ever had.
In November 2011 I took inspirational sci-fi to NaNoWriMo, and there my pomposity literally went intergalactic. When I braved an edit three months later, I realised I’d written eighty-thousand words of circumlocutory (and often self-contradictory) philosophy, interspersed with elaborate chapter-long metaphors and highfalutin religious ideals I’d be embarrassed to repeat.
THAT WAS THE END.
And the beginning of a new era, in which I developed a holy adoration of Microsoft Excel—and now I construct plots scene by scene before even attempting to write. Not only does this provide direction in the drafting, but lends insight into such useful details as the probable length of the product (no more 132k YA Contemps, please) and the duration of the drafting. The older I get the more fundamental this becomes, for, like many busy people, I must schedule my time weeks in advance and am furiously averse to any interventions.
Long, long ago, I enjoyed the spontaneity to pantsing, but now I see it lacked professionalism. These days tireless plotting writes me better first drafts, for structural flaws may be spotted early. As you can guess from my 1,352-prong fictional family tree, I am a character-writer disdaining speculative premises. What I didn’t know was that in the fictional realm, plot and character hold hands—no one should be personified over the other. And in the fictional realm, you do often have to think slightly larger than ‘life’ in terms of sequential plot structure.
I could talk about determinism or focussing on the hook and to Hell with needless details, but instead I’ll just reiterate that if you’re a character-writer, by all means let the plot stem from the character—but don’t be a plot-snob. Vice versa, don’t be a character-snob and decide Darcy was a self-important fool and therefore all characters ever are self-important fools (they are, too).
There. How’d I do?
Here’s the month’s schedule! I’m away for the rest of this month, but will endeavour to get round all yo’ wonderful posts in the near future. À la perchoine**!
9th – https://lillianmwoodall.wordpress.com/ – YOU ARE HERE
24th – http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ – The topic for August’s blog chain will be announced.
*Literally ‘my little cabbages’. To avoid confusion, I am not figuring you beside a vegetable. ‘Mon petit chou’ is a French endearment—and considering I can see a French power station from my town church (twenty miles across roiling ocean), I thought it a fitting mode of self-introduction.
**‘Till the next time’ (I hope)! Not classic French—this is a near-extinct dialect of Norman French spoken by my islander ancestors.