As I write this I am sitting in a cafe in Skegness (thanks to the marvel that is mobile broadband) and trying to make sense of the tangle of notes in my ‘plot ideas’ folder. These files have accumulated over several months of research and prewriting for my new project. They are not ordered in any way. Many of them are contradictory, or entered in different permutations multiple times as ideas have evolved. This is, hopefully, the final stage of prewriting before I can start on the actual draft.Developing characters, for me, is a task I can just sit down and ‘do’, if I can avoid distractions; but developing a plot is much harder and takes far longer. I’ve tried just sitting down and trying to work out a plot before now, and it never works. I have to let the ideas come to me in their own time, usually over many weeks. I write down absolutely everything but I never edit any of these ideas at the time–the ideas become forced and unnatural if I try. I know some writers who can plan a plot sequentially but for me, things come based on which character I’m thinking about at the time. It’s all quite random but at the same time it feels naturally creative, not strained or rushed.
So, this process generates a heap of unordered notes. How do I deal with this? Easy: I break every idea down into its simplest components, write them down in a big list, then put them into chronological order … but it’s very important I don’t do this until I’m sure the chaotic brainstorming phase has ended.
The process of putting these notes into order usually separates the wheat from the chaff, and duff ideas get discarded at this stage. By the end of it, with a bit of luck and a mere 2 or 3 hours of work, I have the bones of a plot.
Of course, that plot might well change as soon as I start writing, but that’s all part of the fun!
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