Thursday, 3 February 2011

Plot, please - 25th May 2010

I’m thinking about plot. This is frustrating because everything I read tells you not to think about plot. It seems that the book should just organically grow: a well watered seed growing into a beautifully complex tree. Hmm. As I’m writing my first ever novel, this doesn’t fill me with comfort. I want the reassurance of a plan but also the exhilaration of ‘where is this going next?’ If I’m not surprised, will my readers be surprised?

It seems people are in two camps: the 'seat of the pants' method and the 'plan, plan, plan' method. Apparently women are more inclined towards the first option and men to the second (so says the lovely Katie Fforde at an author talk I attended in Oxford recently). But what am I? (Not am I am man or women, I’m pretty sure on that…) I only know what is important to me as a reader which is a story that has pace and grips you, but has depth that moves you. It needs to have enough complexity that your brain is ticking away figuring out what is going to happen next and you get that lovely sense of satisfaction when you are right. But it also needs to have perfectly timed and believable surprises. It’s the ‘of course!’ moment. I want my story to have those moments.

In the absence of a definitive guide on how to get this right (oh if only…) I have been seeking advice wherever I can get it. My husband keep telling me ‘it’s a journey’, while I sit pulling my hair out over where this novel is going. But he’s a philosopher so he would say that. And he’s not writing the damn thing! My mum is the ultimate plot guru, though she wouldn’t say so herself. She’s a huge reader and usually spots a good book within the first two pages. When I picture my readers I think of her exclaiming ‘too shallow!’ or ‘it’s jumping around too much, I read when I’m tired you know!’ When my novel is perfect she will see it, I will have more trepidation in showing it to her than any Literary Agent.
Until then I guess it’s time to keep on keeping on. It’s not going to write itself, blah blah blah. So back to the drawing board/happy floaty place in the sky where ideas come…

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