Since the end of January I've promised myself to write one day of every weekend, and at least two evenings a week. That's no mean feat: it means I also have to limit what else I do, and how many people I see. So those evenings are out, you know, those evenings that make living in London great: last minute plans, bumping into a good friend, unexpected fun. No, I must go home and write.
Well this week I went out instead. I desultorily tweaked at my list of scenes (the result of weeks of planning, and the one thing I insisted I couldn’t possibly go on writing without), meanwhile taking up every offer and invitation that got me out of the flat. It was lovely; I saw friends I hadn't seen for a while, I chewed the fat about work over a pint, I recorded a podcast (seriously, I will do anything to get out of writing…), I had a lasagne cooked for me, and I went to see a man about a statue in Fulham. I didn't write.
I have no excuses: I now have my list of scenes. The plot's not entirely there, but it'll do to get started. I have characters with names of their own. I have worked out a rough structure in acts, and pinned them on cards to a board. I have scraps of writing – passages, half-chapters, experiments – that, when taken together, add up to a whole lot of words. But I also have a blank document titled "chapter one". Okay, it'll actually be titled something like "chapter four" (I'm diving straight in to one aspect of my plot, in the hope that inspiration will strike for the first part), but that's beside the point.
This is the bit I thought I'd find easiest. I can write, I thought. It's just structure that I find hard. Or, I just need to work on my characterisation. The conflict.
It seems there are two schools of thought when it comes to writing: just start writing, or plan. I've tried both, and find the latter infinitely better when it comes to writing usable work. I read Lloyd Shepherd's post about Vonnegut's attitude to plotting (unsurprisingly, he's ambivalent) with interest. Lloyd's got a book due out next year and it sounds brilliant, the synopsis I've read describing a story dipping across time and place, but here he says he doesn't plot: "I have a sort-of shape in my head and I just get going and see where it gets me."
I admire this so much, but I have no idea what it means. And so many writers say it. Just start? Like, open a blank document, and write… what? A character's name? A neat opening line? A... description?
I think I've avoided writing so far. I mean, really writing. From the start. One sentence after another. My plot is a bit of a jigsaw, and I've been wrestling with it, but if I don't start writing it soon I'll lose heart. The thing is, when I start putting pen to paper, that's it. Having loads of ideas in suspension and the promise of something feels good; writing it down doesn't.
So I am forcing myself to start at chapter one (four). From now on, I will write from the beginning and not stop, not even to edit. By the time I go on holiday in June, I will have written at least two acts (about five or six chapters).
I guess what I'm saying is, if you see me in the next few weeks, tell me to knuckle down and write, and definitely don't invite me to anything fun.
Word count this week: 0 Running total: 13,197