So, it’s nearly 3pm on a gorgeous sunny day and, having spent the morning hard at work, you might think I could now slope off to my garden and enjoy the fruits of my hard-won morning. But you’d be wrong. Because what I did all morning was plan/plot/order (into a glorious 5-act structure what’s more) the chronology of the 2nd of my historical fictions. But I haven’t actually done any WRITING yet. And the fact remains that, for me, plotting is simply NOT writing. It is, at least, a recollection of thoughts from my research, another chance to look at the points I do want to use, some I can discard, others which might be useful that I hadn’t thought about since doing the research. But it’s definitely not writing. Not the first-draft, making-stuff-up, just-getting-the-thing-down-on-paper-so-I-can-make-it-better-later simply writing the story that I know I need to do before I can really start to work on the thing.
Now, I know some people who are really intense about their plotting, do masses of it, the whole book is pretty much all worked out before they begin, and then they get to work and it’s just a matter of joining the dots. These people make up maybe 20-30% (max) of the (published) writers I know. The rest of us have a vague/less-vague idea of where we’re going, find it as we work on it, and do our heavier work either in the re-writes when the first draft is done, or as we go along.
What I, and about 2/3 of the writers I know, don’t do, is what I spent my morning doing – highlighting, colour-coding, printing & pinning up a big old story about the story I haven’t yet written. I’m annoyed with myself because in many ways it’s make-work, feels satisfying at the time (especially when those notes are up on the wall), certainly LOOKS like work-done, and yet … when it comes down to it, when I come back to my desk and look what I’ve done today, actually … I still have my (minimum) 500 words to write. Today. Grrr.
Who knows, maybe over the next few weeks I’ll find it was really worthwhile doing this revisioning of a structure/chronology I’d already worked on during my research, maybe this morning’s recap will bear fruit (or maybe – and this is my big fear – it will tie me far too much into the chronology of what ‘really’ happened to let my story and characters fly off into a NOVEL. Which is, after all, what I’m writing. An historical novel yes, with facts and everything, but a novel nonetheless. And a novel wants stuff in it that’s made up.)
So that’s what I’m going to do now. Make up some stuff. (In the garden.)