Sunday, 26 February 2012

Guess what a writer does

Go on. Have a guess. No clues. Just guess.

Give up?

OK. I'll tell you. Ready? Are you sitting down? Here it is...

We write. That's it. Big shock, I know, but I'm always reading stuff online about writing that comes at the expense of actually writing. The latest one was in relation to plotting a graph before writing a book. If I got my head around the idea properly (Maths and all that was never my strong point), it involves making a graph in order to see where the plot could or would hit a high point of action, drama or whatever. Then the low points would presumably be the talky bits like in an action film when you go to the loo because nothing is going to blow up for a minute.

To me, this is a very odd way of doing things. Imagine all that time spent supposedly coming up with an idealised plot based on a poxy graph. What about actually sitting down and typing out a story? What about seeing where your characters take you? I mentioned in an earlier post about the new writers who think there are tricks to writing a book. There are apparently a perfect number of words or chapters or words per chapter or yadda yadda. This graph business is the same sort of thinking. There are no tricks to writing. You could read the top ten best-selling books of the last few years and analyse them to see if you can take the best-selling elements from them and apply those to your own book, but you'd be better off writing your own sodding story to the best of your abilities instead of coming up with a cynical, mashed up rip-off pile of crap. Or messing about with graphs for that matter.

A writer writes. That's what we do. Just like an athlete exercises or a chef cooks a lot, we write. And then when the book is finished, we write another one. And then another.


  1. Yep, that's it. You and the good ol' blank page. With nothing but the muse of writing crapping all over your head at all odd hours of the day. With me - and I assume all writers are similar - less is more. Less distractions, less paraphernalia, less busy, going on, shiny objects, things that subtract from writing.

    There is much to be said about a good outline, but as much good to be said about just wingin' it, lettin' it fly. Just hitchin' up the pant legs, rollin' up the sleeves, and following the story where it takes you.

    And I absolutely love the analogy in the last paragraph: writing is like the weight room. It takes an awful lot of sweat and hard work to look this good.

  2. HA! Lots of sweat and hard work, Jon. And in the case of the horror writer, throw in some blood, as well. Lots and lots of blood.

  3. I think you are quite right Luke, sometimes the only way to really understand what your book is all about is to get on and write the darn thing.

    That said, I do quite a bit of planning, but I think that's mainly because time travel is one of those concepts you need to have properly nailed down before you even start.

    Great blog, btw! I'm a regular lurker here :-)

    Alex Scarrow (author of TimeRiders series)

  4. Thanks, Alex. For what it's worth, I plan as well in as much as jotting down a rough idea of scenes, but this graph thing of trying to see where a plot should peak doesn't get my vote at all.

    And I'm looking forward to The Candle Man - got my copy on order.

  5. Amen. I never outline - I just write. Apparently my characters know what's going on when I don't. I run with it :) Glad to see I'm not alone. Seems to be there are more "planners" out there.

  6. I always listen to my characters. It's their story, not mine. And it's always a more interesting tale told from their POV.