Monday, April 12, 2010

The Battle of the How To Writes

The story is firmly moored like a boat at a pier, bobbing in the waves , as at least one of my major characters, is throwing up overboard. The other characters are firmly in their seats, ready for push off on their journey.

All that is missing now is plot structure. There is a beginning and and end, but what´s between? I´ve been reading a lot of fiction lately by writers I enjoy and I am puzzled by how to make the middle not so much of a transit lounge on the way to the end.

So I have enlisted some help from How To Write gurus. At first, I was cautious. For starters, I have never heard of any of them. Sure, they might know how to write a book, it doesn´t mean any of them have actually sold very well. Keeping in mind this was a little experiment, I cleared my mind of doubt and began to read.

´Novel Writing - Sixteen Steps to Success´by Evan Marshall is concise, blunt and well planned. Marshall offers an interesting technique that centres heavily on planning every minute action of the character´s interactions, thoughts and development - all this before allowing you to begin writing a word of your story. I liked this book so I hit the photocopier the next day to copy his template and got cracking.

But I, like a child with chocolate, was tempted too much. I fell of the wagon, so to speak, and began writing away with the story. I also went back to the library to see if any other writers advocated this approach.

´The Writer´s Little Helper´by James V. Smith Jr. was standing on the shelf. I was guided to it by a compass as it was the polar opposite of Marhsall´s book. It appears to be the Rubrix Cube of writing books with its design meaning you need to flick through various sections back and forth to make sense of it. Another difference is that it doesn´t not promote any real planning beyond a handful of key scenes. Not every thought , feeling or itch that a character has - just guts is important.

I fall somewhere between the two. I like the planning, but it also frustrates me. I want to turn my mind to cruise control and bang out the book, but I also love a well written story.

I´ve decided to take the advice of both authors on board and plot along out to sea with my characters. In my hand is a map, like the first European explorers used to navigate Australia. On one side there is a well mapped coast filled with reefs, jutting peninsulas and beaches. The other side disappears into the blankess of the page.

Here´s hoping there´s no end of the earth lurking around the next bend.

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