Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Did I Really Make That?

I’ve just finished what I call a Pre-Draft of my next book. It’s something I started doing a few years ago that I find really helpful. I used to do an outline before starting on the First Draft of a novel but the outlines grew and grew until they started to be somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the length of the finished novel. They had their own contents pages, detailed setting, pages and pages of finished dialogue. They were mini novels really, working models of the real thing which allowed me to explore the plot and characters in very considerable detail before actually beginning work on the real thing.

But it takes a lot of will power to make myself go through this elaborate preparatory stage because all I really want to do is launch into the novel proper. So why don’t I? Because if I take the trouble to write it out in miniature first, I find I end up with a much better piece of work. And that’s what matters.

All the same I am so immensely relieved when I get out of the Pre-Draft stage that I feel like throwing a colossal party. Then I remember the last time I threw a colossal party, how at the end, when I finally succeeding in getting everybody out of the house at some dreadful hour in the morning, put all the bottles and cans in black plastic sacks and wearily climbed the stairs to my bedroom I discovered that somebody had been sick on my bed.

So perhaps I’ll just go out with my wife to a very nice restaurant instead.

First though, I am going to have to do something about the terrible mess that is my desk. It looks like I’ve just been burgled. This happens whenever I’m working on an extended piece of writing . Letters pile up unopened, books gather around the computer like they’ve started growing there. Soon I begin losing things underneath the debris, like my glasses for example, or the telephone. Everything goes to hell in a handcart.

But right now who cares? Because my model works and I’m so pleased with it. Look at the wheels going round, look at the pistons going up and down, look at the lights going on and off. Did I really make that?


Keren David said...

As someone who hasn't learned to do proper planning yet, this is extremely interesting. Do you ever find yourself going off-piste when you move on from your pre-draft? And how much detail do you go into? I need a masterclass in writing one of these pre-drafts!

Paul Lamb said...

I generally have only the general plot outline and character sketches in place when I embark on the writing, but I have found that writing scenarios for each chapter helps me a great deal. I suspect I would travel down dead end roads without it.

Whatever works for each writer is really the best way to go.

Jarucia said...

Lol...I found this far more humorous than you may have intended.

Firstly, congrats on the completion of your pre-planning.

In my writer's group we often debate the value of such work. Some of us are quite methodical about it while others like to write off the cuff. I can't say the pre-planning works for everyone though.

Anywho, when I wrote my third novel length doo-hicky last year (for NaNoWrimo) I did bother to do a rough outline of the plot and by god it helped IMMENSELY. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have whipped out 66k in 30 days. Can't say they were all great, but still...

I'm rambling.

Congrats again :)

Brian Keaney said...

Thanks for your comments everyone. I do appreciate them. Paul & Jarucia, I wrote my first five novels by writing down a series of chapter headings on the back of an envelope and setting off. It works. I just got tired of undoing all the knots afterwards.

Keren, I do go off piste. For example in the pre-draft one of my books, The Haunting Of Nathaniel Wolfe, the ghost of a young girl appears to the hero. When I came to write the First Draft I saw that it would be a much better story if the ghost was the young girl's mother and the girl herself was a character in the narrative. It meant quite a lot of changes but I was glad I discovered this before writing a full-length manuscript.