Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Hard work and jigsaw puzzles

There's a definite slogging aspect to this novel writing. A sort of daily grind kind of hard work thing that you know about, but don't fully realise.

I knew that writing a book was likely to be hard work; it stands to reason. A blog post of 600-1000 words can take me anything from half an hour to a whole morning, so piling up 80,000 - 100,000 words and trying to make something out of them was going to be a challenge. What I failed to grasp was that there would be parts of the book that I couldn't wait to get my hands on, and other parts, necessary parts, that would need to be written whether I want to or not.

Some scenes are exciting (to me, at least!) and others are a bit mundane. There are parts of the story that I like better than others, to be honest. My heroine has a back-story and a present-day story, and so do the other characters, and these need to be woven together. Some parts of their stories I am longing to write - indeed often the temptation is too much and I skip around, writing scenes as they come to me, rather than telling the story in a linear manner.

It feels a little like emptying a jigsaw puzzle out of the box onto the table and looking at the pieces. Some of them you can see, and some are still blanks because they landed upside down. Some are identifiable - look! this is a picture of a greengrocer's shop, and there are some oranges! Other pieces are much more subtle - they must be parts of the background.
Not exciting, perhaps, but necessary; the picture would be incomplete without them.

So I start to order the pieces. First turning them all over so I see what I have to choose from, then organising them into sections. Finally, when it looks as if everything is there, I begin to join them together. When I do, it's easiest to start with the edge pieces, to make a frame, so to speak.

So writing a book is like doing a jigsaw. Brightly coloured areas and background. Parts that seem to come together easily - I can see the rest of the box of oranges; they stand out - and those bits that are hard to pull together.

I wonder if this will come back to bite me, this piecemeal approach. I've already joined together different segments of the book only to find that a character's name changed at some point, and so I know that I shall have to be on the ball for continuity issues, but I dread that the book will have a disjointedness about it - that it won't flow properly because I wrote it out of order, rather than sitting down and beginning at the beginning and letting events unfold.

I wonder. Surely everyone doesn't do that, do they? Surely there are many ways to write a novel? I know that JK Rowling had detailed plans of her Harry Potter books, a discovery that made me feel much better about mine. Having said that, as far as I can tell, hers was a couple of sides of A4. Mine runs to eighteen pages....

One thing I definitely need to bear in mind, though: if I'm finding a section of the book fairly dull to write, then there's a strong chance that it might turn out to be fairly dull to read. Maybe the parts that I'm putting off writing don't need to be substantial parts, more references, snippets of dialogue or indeed omitted completely.

Think. Think. And sit down and get writing.

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