J. L. Harland • May 19th, 2018
With any story there are, of course, three major parts. The beginning, the middle and the end. Obvious? Yes. Easy? Maybe.
It helps if you know where the story is going to end before you start. We think it’s a bit like going on a car journey. There may be many routes and detours, you might get lost or have to use a satnav, but you want to get to your destination in the end. Just like in your writing.
Starting a story is the easy bit. You’ve got your idea, you start writing and then… you get stuck. The enthusiasm has worn off, it’s all a bit of a slog and you abandon it. There are probably mountains of unfinished novels in drawers or stored on computers because the writer ran out of steam half-way through. That’s where plotting comes in. Okay, we said that sometimes the character hijacks the story but it still helps to have some idea before you start of what you want to achieve by the end. Everyone has a different method of planning and you have to find out what works for you but we hope our experiences will help.
When we started writing together we spent hours and days (in the pub) getting to know our characters and building profiles for them. Anyone listening probably thought we were talking about real people because, to us, they were real. Then it came to the plot. We decided on the setting (there will be another posting on that aspect) and what hurdles our heroine, Elin, would have to confront. We agreed that she needed three (magic number!) hurdles in her life and set about planning what those conflicts were going to be. We knew how the story was going to end but we weren’t sure how we were going to get there.
That’s what plotting is all about. It’s simply the steps from the beginning to the end. We talked through story lines, ideas and balance and planned four chapters at a time. We had thirty-six chapters in total so you see what we mean about days in the pub! Then came the writing. The purpose was to get to first draft as soon as possible so the editing came later.
When we had written the four chapters the process began again. Sometimes the characters took us down paths we hadn’t expected and we explored issues we hadn’t really had in mind at the beginning but we always had the end in sight.
The first draft, from discussion to completion took about four months. The re-writing and editing took much longer. If you can plot your ideas before you start writing it helps. Some writers plan each scene in detail, others have a vague outline.
It’s whatever works for you.