The dream/word balance

I’ve been aware, in the week since handing in Bringer of Light, of the need to refocus on the next novel. Okay, I’m also waiting for editorial feedback, tinkering with short stories and enjoying the seasonal re-appearance of my social life, but really those are just excuses.

Prompted by a desire to avoid another deadline death-march next autumn, this morning I bit the bullet and turned my full attention to Queen of Nowhere. Thanks to being totally focused on getting Bringer of Light in on time, I’d given the next Hidden Empire book almost no conscious thought over the last few months. In fact, when I climbed the ladder up to t’garret after breakfast, I was concerned I’d just be staring at that proverbial blank screen.

Except of course, writing doesn’t work like that. I start off by creating ‘support files’ – notes on plot, character, timeline etc (see this blog entry, and those following it for more details). Actual prose comes later. Possibly quite a lot later: one of the many lessons Bringer of Light has taught me is that I need to be a bit more comfortable with where I’m going before I get stuck into raising the word-count, otherwise I’ll risk a lot of those words being discarded later. Or, to put it another way: less pants, more plot.

So today, nothing ambitious: just the ‘Outline’, ‘Questions’ and ‘Notes’ files. The ‘Outline’ file is the most important, as that’s my initial working space. It’ll grow considerably before a single word of actual novel gets written, spawning questions, notes and, eventually, a rough timeline and some chapter outlines.

First I need to put some initial thoughts and possibilities into that file, ready to spark off more thoughts and possibilities, and eventually, somehow, get organised into some sort of structure. These first steps are one of the most exciting experiences in the writing process: there’s so much potential! But they can also be the most nerve-wracking, because that includes the potential to screw up badly right at the start.

I was concerned I wouldn’t have enough material to get going with my outline, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Partly this is due to the book being part of a series, although Queen of Nowhere follows a new character, very different from the trio of mystic, fool and crusader who’ve been centre-stage in the last two books (though they do turn up in this book – probably). Still, there are ongoing elements of ‘my’ universe that’ll be coming into play here, some of them growing from seeds I planted in earlier books. Then there’s the 400 word pitch I wrote to sell the book, but haven’t looked at for over a year. I was pleased to discover that there is a rough plot outline hidden in there.

As soon as I’ve had lunch I’ll be abandoning my garret and digging out my thermals. Despite the awful weather, what I need now is a good long plot walk.

2 Responses to The dream/word balance

  1. Karen Williams 9 December 2010 at 1:22 am #

    “less pants, more plot” — I’m not sure this means what I think it means. What do you think it means? 🙂

  2. Jaine Fenn 9 December 2010 at 8:47 am #

    That was me being clever, see.

    I was referring to the distinction between ‘panster’ and ‘plotter’ (I’d put in a link but this blog editor’s not that smart; or possibly I’m not that smart), as in a person who just wings it vs someone who outlines in great detail before writing their novel. I was also saying (to myself, mainly) that this time I’m determined not to write a novel much of which subsequently turns out to be pants, and so needs rewriting.

    In retrospect I think I was trying to be too clever.

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