Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Just keep swimming

I feel like Dory in the film Finding Nemo at the moment, except instead of humming, "Just keep swimming" to myself, I have "Just keep writing" on a loop at the back of my head. And I can't seem to stop.

Once the fever has passed I'll continue posting on theme, but in the meantime I have a couple of bits of wisdom about my process that I stumbled across on my journey from 'stuck' to 'flowing':

1. Get the foundations right.
I know some people say "write forward", "don't go back until you've finished the first draft", and I have done that in the past, but it doesn't always work for me. I often get stuck at the beginning of the second act, when the plot takes off in a new direction. I've discovered I need to go back and get my first act right if I don't want to wallow in indecision at this point.

Act One is for planting seeds that are going to start shooting and budding in Act Two and that will reach full fruition in Act Three. If I haven't got things set up properly in Act One I have no idea how things are going to grow in Act Two. If I try to write forward it's like walking through treacle. Once I've gone back and tweaked my first couple of chapters, though, I'm often all fired up and ready to get going again.

As good as a lot of writing advice is, we just have to figure out our own process. We can't be afraid to break the so-called rules or we just end up paralysing ourselves.

2. Keep It Simple, Stupid.
As much as all my character tables and questions about arcs and themes help me pull myself out of a rut, I find I can OD on them. I've ended up with too much story for a 50,000 word book (again!). And I was so busy plotting my hero and heroine's indivdual arcs that I almost forgot to make sure one vital ingredient was sparkling - the romance!

Those arcs to have intersect again and again, because in a Mills & Boon/Harlequin novel, it's the relationship with the other lead character that is the catalyst for change in the hero or heroine. So the romance - the times they interact, the sexual tension thrumming between them - has to be the major factor, not the other events that could push the characters to grow. Easy to forget that when you're knee-deep in charts and lists. Sigh.

Okay, I've warbled on for far too long. Time to get writing again! (Slinks off).


Cara Cooper said...

Hi Fiona

Thank you very much for this, all pearls of wisdom. The brain works in an odd way when you're writing. What can seem well on target whilst your in the flow can, when looked at in the cold light of day need a lot of fixing. Because the stories are so complex it's like juggling loads of balls at once and one can easily drop. It's nice to know that very experienced writers like yourself still have to think hard about it all. I meant to come over and say hi at Jenny's book launch the other day but unfortunately it just wasn't long enough! Nice to see you there though, even if only at a distance!

Janet said...

I've finished reading the Moral Premise and it was a huge help.
Then I found the Moral Premise blog
(and asked a question about the Moral Premise in romance novels.)

and then I found a link to a great guest post from Stanley Williams on a different blog) giving advice on using the Moral premise in stories

So pleased you mentioned this book --I know a lot more about theme now :)