Friday, 28 October 2011

Let it snow






‘Right,’ said my editor, ‘This time round, how about planning a fairly detailed skeleton of the book before you start writing? That way,’ she added sweetly, ‘we can avoid any complications or snags with the plot right at the start.’


She made it sound so reasonable. ‘Okay,’ I replied in a strangled voice, ‘I’ll certainly give it a go.’ And then I rhythmically banged my head on the wall for several minutes, keening a little at the same time.


The thing is, I’m not really a ‘panter’.  Or to use another expression I’ve heard, a ‘discovery writer’. But then I’m not really a classic plotter either. I usually have a rough idea of the overall shape of the book in my mind but with plenty of room for finding new ideas while I’m writing. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to write myself into impossible corners and then spend a great deal of time going backwards and forwards, a bit like when Austin Powers was in that car trying to get out of a miniscule parking space [funniest thing in the whole movie in my view, but I digress]


So what she wants me to do is start with a once sentence pitch. Then, I need to expand it to ten lines. And so on until I have a one page summary. Easy right? Right?


Er...


A writer friend helpfully pointed out that this was also known as The Snowflake Method, which you can check out here.


I’ve given it a go and you know what? It has actually helped. A bit. I haven’t gone the whole hog yet. I haven’t actually done anything as insane as getting beyond the third step if I’m really honest. But it has prompted some quite decent ideas that I didn’t have before. I’ve actually started writing before finishing all the steps [shh, don’t tell my editor] but I do feel as though I willl be able to plan the story out more closely now.


If you’re a panter and it works for you, that’s great [she says a bit enviously]. You have no need to try this at all. But if you’re a bit of a panter who eyes those sensible plotter types with their lovely crisp notecards, highlighter pens and nerdy spreadsheets, secretly wishing that a little of their sensible ways would rub off on you, it’s definitely worth a try.

10 comments:

Sandra Davies said...

This sounds like good advice. I'm not sure I can take it ... but I might give it a try, especially as my husband asked last night 'Does your [NaNo] novel have any action in it?' and I could only reply '... er, not yet'

Caroline Green said...

Sandra, the keening and rocking definitely helped. But yes, was quite painful!

Helen Black said...

This is actually my natural way of working.
When an idea comes to mind, I plot quite intensively in order to see if it's just a sparkle with no real potential, or somehting that has legs and the braod shoulders to carry on to the end.
HB x

Caroline Green said...

Does this way of working still allow ideas to come as you write though, Helen?

Debs Riccio said...

does having a beginning and an end count as being a plotter? I have no idea how I'm going to get there but I quite enjoy the jounrney.

Sandra Davies said...

Result! Thought a bit, started a snowflake with a pretty basic question (i.e. how the heroine discovered there was something to be investigated in the first place) went on to answer that and followed it round until I came up with a villain, a motive and several methods, which enabled me to identify at least some of the reader-confusing red-herrings. Not quite decided on the victims yet, but this was a very useful catalyst - than you.

Caroline Green said...

Yay Sandra! Brilliant to hear my rambling nonsense may have helped a very tiny bit, so thank YOU. If it works for you, maybe can do a guest post for Strictly on it? But no pressure!

Debs...I don't think it does, to be honest!

Geraldine Ryan said...

Thanks for this Caroline. I perhaps should have read this a long time ago. It might have stopped me reinventing the wheel of story with every single thing I've ever written. Will print it off and study at length.

Caroline Green said...

Good, hope it helps Geri...although I bet you already have a pretty good instinct for structure, writing shorts?

AliB said...

Well I'm definitley a panter (actually I thought it was pantser, but panting certainly occurs!) Discovery writer sounds a lot more respectable, but having been boxed in corners before now, shall take a look at this new snowflake idea. thanks!
AliB