Friday, 9 November 2012

Discovering Plot - Being the Designated Typist

Was reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird this morning on the train and came across a wonderful description of how to do discovering writing.
She is discussing how to develop plot, and her major point is that plot should be discovered based on getting to know your characters and seeing what they do. She then continues:
P. 56.
‘This is how it works for me: I sit down in the morning and reread the work I did the day before. And then I wool-gather, staring at the blank page or off into space. I imagine my characters, and let myself daydream about them. A movie begins to play in my head, with emotion pulsing underneath it, and I stare at it in a trance like state, until words bounce around together and form a sentence. Then I do the menial work of getting it down on paper, because I’m the designated typist, and I’m also the person whose job it is to hold the lantern while the kid does the digging. What is the kid digging for? The stuff. Details and clues and images, invention, fresh ideas, an intuitive understanding of people. I tell you, the holder of the lantern doesn’t even know what the kid is digging for half the time – but she knows gold when she sees it.”
This is a method of writing which I practise so find her suggestion very useful.
And I know that there are writers who are extensive plotters, who like to have an entire outline before sitting down to write. However, I haven't actually come across a good description of this process in the writing books I've read so far. Particularly I'm interested to know whether it requires a full understanding of your characters before you start plotting? Is one of the dangers of this method that it will stifle the character as they must act along certain lines, or is that my bias as a discovery writer?
Anyone practise this method or read more about plotting and character?
As to my writing, I met up with friend and fellow writer Bec Butterworth this morning at Koko Black to write together for NaNoWriMo. (Bec's actually working as a writer, and has articles published and stuff! Check her out at Also she has an upcoming article in Women's Health.) 
Koko Black is a wonderful place for the inspiration, but not so good for the waist line, though I tried to stay away from the chocolate by having a coffee affrogato and then an iced tea (with strawberries and mint!). However when the very nice waiter brought us over two free chocolate dipped hazelnuts, I had it in my mouth before I remembered... and it would have just been rude to spit it out then. The nice waiter was also working on a novel, but thought the concept of NaNoWriMo was insane, so I didn't tell him about my two week drafts.
My writing time has been cut into as I've started going to work again at 9am (work needed people to do overtime, and I felt bad others were doing overtime when I was waltzing in at 10.30am, so good bye morning writing session until the end of the year, or I collapse). So what with handling the two blogs, and having my evenings cut into by family, friends, Bible studies, gym, etc., I'm only just keeping up with NaNoWriMo at the moment. I'm 12,000 words into my historical romance, but hope to get a bit ahead this weekend. That's the aim at least. Though with it all, I've also been cutting into my sleep which is going to come back and bite me soon.
Other WriMo's out there: one week down, how are you managing?

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