In this blog, I thought people might like to see the different ways I plan a story. I say ‘different ways’ as I never follow a set plan as such, and I often experiment.
First thing, when an idea comes to me – and that could be any number of things – if I get that ‘buzz’ then I’m pretty well certain the story will begin to evolve.
I invariably have the end in my mind, and write towards that. However, any number of twists and turns might occur so at some stage I set down a plan. Sometimes, I do this on a piece of paper, and I make a list of around 10 essential scenes or incidents. Here is the plan I scribbled down for an unfinished story featuring Paul Chaise, my hero in ‘Burnt Offerings’. It will be the third in the series (as the 2nd is in the redrafting stage as we speak!). It may not make much sense, as this is only the initial mind-mapping.
1. Packs off Richard Porterhouse on the plane, after making a ‘deal’ over trouble being over-looked. They tell him where Linny is and he goes to find her.
2. Linny is not there, she’s been bought out by some nutter who is buying up property left, right and centre. PC asks around and finds out some interesting stuff.
3. This nutter wrote a software programme, sold it to Microsoft for millions and now wants to become a latter day feudal baron.
And so it goes on. As you can see, it is not highly detailed, and there is an awful lot of story-writing to do to fill in the gaps, etc. It is only an outline, and can grow and grow. This one got to 16 such mini-outlines.
I usually look to get down at least 60,000 words before I look at the serious work of editing. Often ideas continue to come to me during these re-writes and although I cut and change a great deal, that 60,000 becomes 80,000 without any real trouble.
Another way I have of working is to use a spider-diagram or ‘mind-map’ as the new parlance calls it. Here is one I used for the second book to feature ‘Don Luis’, who is the mayor of a small Spanish village in the 17th century. I’ve neatened it up here, as I usually scribble it down using any old piece of paper I can find.
I usually put the main event in the centre, and everything spreads outwards from that. I find this effective when plotting a murder mystery, which this particular story is.
Now this can grow and grow and grow, and I’ve merely included here an idea of what I sometimes use. I find it a good way of linking all the disparate threads.
I sometimes use Scrivener, which is a great way of organising ideas, chapters, characters, etc. But I’m still learning and always make lots of mistakes.
So, what about those ideas? I’ll use a recent book of mine in an attempt to illustrate how my fuddled imagination works…
When I wrote ‘Splintered Ice,’ which is set in New Brighton on the Wirral my starting point was me. My time in school, in my last year at Mosslands. But Jed, the hero, had to be older than I was, so I set it in 1972, and Jed was 18. At the same point in history, I was 15.
The plan was to write a series of thrillers, set 5 years apart, that would trace his life right up to the present day. He’d get himself in all sorts of scrapes, just as I did, and the books would be populated with all the people and places I knew in and around Wallasey. So far so good. I had the story all set, with the opening in the school dining room, and the ubiquitous bully stealing the other kids’ food. This often happened to me. The difference with Jed, as opposed to me, is that he won’t stand for it. That’s the great thing about being a writer; your characters do what you tell them to do. Well, from there he goes down to Central Park and sees a man fall into the lake, which is covered with a thin sheet of ice. He dives in after him, and from that point falls under this man’s control. So far so good. But then, half way through, I decide to alter the genre, from thriller, to super-natural. But after about 100 pages, I went back to it being a thriller. In the end, I wrote two parallel books, one contemporary, one supernatural. The published version is the contemporary one. Who knows, one day I might try and place that second version.
Well, there we are, a few pointers into how I go about my writing. I hope you’ve found it interesting, and if you’d care to pop along to my websites, you’ll see my work with details of where to buy them.
Thanks for dropping by, and keep reading.