Week 85

85 Now, I've read a fair few books on writing, and this was to be my last one before knuckling down to the hard work of outlining, but even I was put off slightly when Martha Anderson in her book The Plot Whisperer wrote:

Eager to support [my dogs'] healing, I visited an alternative veterinarian. She taught me how to channel and use energy to heal others. That is when I first learned of the veil and what is on the other side.

Oh god. What book have I picked up (Foyles, break between meeting friends, trying to impress a man in the poetry section)?

It wasn't all bad, In fact, I found it extremely useful. Some books just clinch the deal, and this is one of them. She goes on to explain the four main "energetic points" you should structure a story around, and then that's it from energy (and dogs).

The book had just the right tools I needed: a plot planner, which helps you identify the intensity, mix and pace of your story as well as its progress by visualising it on a wall, and a scene tracker, a spreadsheet (YES!) that lets you outline each scene and chapter.

helps coral your ideas around key "energy points" and differentiates between the kind of scenes I find easy - thoughtful, inward, unconnected - and difficult, those that show action.

And it's not just the story that gets this treatment. It's you (okay, here's where the dogs and crystals come in). Anderson encourages you to identify some of the obstacles keeping you from writing, and compare them with those that hold your character back.

Growing up is a series of increasingly avoidance behaviour, avoiding conflict, choosing the sensible option, staying out of it. That's my instinct, and a great deal of writers too, unless you're Hunter S Thompson or Byron. Most people seek to avoid conflict and nurture relationships. And what did you do then? Well, I left the room. And then? I made some toast. Loudly. And then? Homes Under the Hammer was on and I sort of forgot about it.

And for fiction that just won't do - you need to push characters into extremis and see how they squirm. The joy of reading is in part voyeuristic, making us utter "there but for the grace of God go I".

Real life doesn't live up to what we read in books. That's the point. What's the point? Exactly.

Word count this week: 0 First draft: 128,661