I have just started an on-line writing course. I have written six books and I have found I’ve got things all wrong!
The course stresses you should carefully go through the planning stage and know in advance the outline of your book, eg the major twists and turns of the plot and all the characters. It pooh-poohs the author who says the characters take over. Er…Hmm!! I’m guilty of this.
Okay, I probably know the beginning and the end of the plot and know some of the plots which happen in the middle, but rather than writing a detailed synopsis beforehand, I prefer to do a sort of a pitch. The course explains a pitch as getting to the heart of the book in a few words as possible. They give an example of a pitch and I quote:
Alice in Wonderland
‘Alice falls asleep one lazy summer’s day. She awakes and sees a white rabbit , which she follows down a rabbit hole. There, she has many curious adventures in a mysterious place called Wonderland…’
Yes, I definitely plan my books as a sort of a pitch. I treat my story like an adventure; you don’t know in advance where it might lead – a bit like life, I suppose. You may make plans for your life but you don’t know whether they will work out, do you? If I plan the whole of the book in advance I think I would miss the inspiration I get from my characters when they take over. For instance, in my Fallyn Trilogy, in the third book, ‘Fallyn and the Sea Dragons,’ I intended to make a minor character, the pirate chief, evil. Had I planned his character in advance, this would have definitely been his character, but Captain Bert was having none of that. He waved his cutlass at me and before my eyes he decided he would be an important character; charismatic and a handsome person, to boot. Of course, when the characters are established I write meticulous records of their hair colouring, traits and mannerisms, etc.
Perhaps, my sixth book ‘Where Lies My Heart’ (yet to be published) is the most planned and structured, only because it is a faction book and I had to follow the chronological facts, weaving the fiction characters into the ready-made factual evidence.
Personally, I think there should be ‘horses for courses’ in writing books. One person may plan the book to the last detail; the course gives J K Rowling as an example, saying she planned and wrote her seven books before publishing them. I quote Rose Tremain, English historical author, what she says about writing books.
‘In the planning stage of a book, don’t plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it.’
I would be interested to hear from other writers how do they write a book.