I’ve learnt a huge amount from writing this blog. One of the most important being, ‘you’ve always got something else you can learn.’ But now I’m back to writing a first draft, I find all this information on writing techniques buzzing around my head is getting in the way.
It’s like buying a new house and trying to re-decorate everything at once. Nobody chooses the colour scheme, paints the woodwork, puts up the wallpaper, and changes the light fittings all at the same time.
Learning so many wonderful and useful things about writing craft is all well and good, but I’m beginning to feel like I’ve gone to B&Q and bought the whole shop, so now I have no idea where to start.
What I need to remember is a first draft is just that; the first draft of many. So I’ve come up with a plan and it compares surprisingly well to my decorating techniques.
Before I decorate a room, I spend time with paint charts, and curtain swatches, and all the other things I use to work out the colour and tone I want to achieve. I grab a bit of everything and throw it into the mix, and along the way I discover which colours clash or contrast or perfectly match, and how much I want of each in my room. I do the same with my first draft, only instead of colours I’m finding my characters, and seeing how their stories shape up. I get it all on the page then take a good look at it to see what’s there.
I realise there are those who plot every aspect of their story before putting pen to paper, but then I’m sure there’s software available which lets you create a design for your room in every detail before picking up a paintbrush. Stick to whatever works for you.
Once I know the colour scheme and the design, I like to see blocks of paint go up on the walls and ceiling, and then the lines and form which comes from painting the woodwork. I like to see the structure taking shape in my design. It’s the same with my stories. Having achieved a mess of first draft, I go though and impose a structure: scene and sequel; goal, conflict, resolution; emotion, dilemma, decision; stimulus and response. I work on my plot.
Next comes the Wallpaper. I love putting up wallpaper, it can completely change the feel of a room. It adds something extra. It brings a dull room to life. I think of it as the descriptions we use to make our story worlds seem real. During my third draft I concentrate on the way I’ve integrated the story into the surroundings, and whether I have given the setting it’s own part to play in the story.
And finally there are the fixtures and fittings. The curtains, the light switches, the choice of radiator. All the things which make the room uniquely yours, in the same way that your prose gives you an unique and individual style. In my fourth draft I concentrate on my word choices.
So, now I’ve got that worked out, I’d better get on and finish.
picture c/o hovercraft doggy
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