Although I have never actually read any of Terry Pratchett’s work, I remember watching a documentary where he showed off his office/writing space-he had seven computer screens! He was also very right about the above quote. I was sad to hear of his passing earlier this year.
A friend of mine asked me recently about my writing style-am I one of those writers who plan everything in meticulous detail? Or do I go with the flow and let the story unfold naturally. Honestly, even with essays at college and university, I have always been a fan of rolling with the punches and letting the act of writing things down become the way I process and articulate my thoughts.
“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say”-Flannery O’Connor
Some authors are really committed to planning well in advance and in detail. I remember this article in the Daily Mail being quite an eye opener. In particular, Sylvia Plath’s notes were wonderful to look a; not as regimented as some of the others, but rather a scribbling of ideas, which appeals to me greatly. Plus The Bell Jar is an absolutely incredible book (I recommend to all!), and to see how she has steadily brought it to life is a valuable and unique insight. It is very easy to look at the notes of someone like J K Rowling for example and just assume you are doing things all wrong, but I feel it is more important to plan or not plan as one deems appropriate, rather than try to fit into a mould, a style, a routine set by another writer. What works well for someone else might not necessarily work for you.
I recall scribbling down ideas for the ending of Latest Mistake on a bus going to work one day, listening to Home by Kate Rusby. I had toiled for a while about how to end it and the song helped to spark the final idea. Here’s the song in case you want to listen.
Inspiration, like in the above case, can strike anywhere, so I carry a small notebook and a pen wherever I go. I have been gifted lots of lovely books and pens over the years! In the times when I’ve forgotten these items, I’ll scramble for my phone, as thoughts, sentences and ideas can be gone within seconds. This is why I tend to prefer to write alone and (mostly!) undistracted. Sometimes a lot comes at once, sometimes only a few words or a sentence or two. I found this note recently of William’s meeting with Wendy.
Now, as you know, the first chapter of Wendy’s House is not yet complete and yet in my mind I have already experienced their late night meeting and am looking forward to writing it all down.
Although I am quite committed to this method, it is not without its disadvantages, especially when you have written something over a long period of time like Latest Mistake, which took me years to write. Without extensive notes or a detailed plan, your only point of reference is the text itself. I can think of countless times that I have trawled through Latest Mistake, attempting to recall one small detail or sentence, which was crucial but hidden in the chapters I had not looked at for some time. In fact I recall the moment I realised I had accidentally swapped the names of Amelia and Blane’s fathers half way through!
I am not worried about this again though-my aim is to write Wendy’s House in a much shorter time span and perhaps I can make a collection of some of the above, hand written scrawls for reference if I should need it!
Featured image courtesy of Pinterest here:https://www.pinterest.com/pin/6333255699214891/