For the last week or so, I’ve been struggling to sit my butt down and write. I want to get back in the saddle and send off the first 50 pages of my current work in progress to a contest, and the deadline is ten days away.
But it’s taken me three days to scratch out a bare-bones synopsis. I wake myself up at the usual time, stare at the screen, and write a few words. Then delete them. Wash, rinse, repeat.
I couldn’t figure out what exactly was wrong with me. I always work better when I’m up against a deadline – it’s one reason I enter contests. It gives me something to write toward. Sure, work’s been taking a lot more mental energy than usual, but romance writing is a great way to escape spreadsheets and conference calls.
So what is it? Today I got the April edition of RWA’s Romance Writer’s Report, and it starts off with an interesting article by Jo Beverley called “Once More into the Mist”. She writes about how detrimental it is to her writing when she tries to pre-plot. Instead, her writing style is to let her imagination work as she’s writing instead of beforehand.
It was lightbulb moment for me. I already knew this is the way I write too. I start with characters, some conflict between them, a setting and – if I’m lucky – a plot. It all germinates in my head for a bit before I start putting it down on paper. But that paper is my working draft, not a plot outline or character sketches.
I write scenes as they come to me, and they usually come around midnight Sunday through Thursday, keeping me wide awake and making me the teensiest bleary-eyed for work. The first scene I wrote of my current manuscript will probably end up happening around page 200. Or it may be 150 or 250. Hard to say at this point because I’ve only got a third of it written.
And that’s my problem. I need to put together a synopsis which shows what will happen to my characters, and I have only a glimpse into their future. I know quite a bit more about what happens to them than I did when I wrote my first manuscript. But I’m still not totally clear. I feel like I’m trying to explain the taste and texture of a gourmet cake when I’ve only got half the ingredients in the bowl and I’m searching the cupboards to see what other goodies I can add.
I’ll get there. It might not be the most brilliant synopsis ever, and once I finish it I have to fix some problems with the story itself. By the time I get the judge’s comments back, it’ll be summer and the story will probably be very different by then. But going through this process will spark ideas for scenes I can write over the coming weeks.
So how about you? Do you pre-plot or peer through the mist and see what happens?