During this hiatus, I am engrossed in trying to work out a plot to insert into the theme of the interior world of piano teaching and the interractions between students and tutors. I have loads of material. By Monday afternoon, I have received six piano cancellations for a variety of reasons and I'm certain some grandpas have died twice. Paul has taken a month off as he's taken on too many things (I could have told him that); Elizabeth is going off to South America and will return in January; Isabella takes two weeks off just before her first exam and I give up a free afternoon to take her mock exam and scrape off the rust.
Write a book a month (BAM)
Someone sends me a slim book by Cyn Mobley called BAM or Book a Month. I wish! I'm already struggling with requests from two publishers for non-fiction ideas and I'm not in the mood for writing about blood pressure knowing the research will push mine up higher than it already is. I like following instructions so I look at BAM and it's basically a breakdown of the sort of preparation I would do anyway and how I learnt to develop a script at uni (although in truth this only fell into place when I read an out of print American book on their reading list called Film Scriptwriting - A Practical Manual by Dwight V Swain, which explained everything I needed to know that wasn't happening in lectures). Most of those were taken up by the tutor moaning about his lack of writing commissions.
BAM splits up the development into deadlines, a bit like having a life coach dividing up your tasks to success.
- Finding the story and creating the logline (precis)
- Looking for conflict
- Developing the three act structure
- Fly-to points (plot points or turning points)
- Chapters divided up into acts and scenes and
Why development first is a good idea
Some writers prefer to begin with a blank screen and invent a character out of whose development a plot emerges; it then takes them over, as do the characters and they allow themselves to be transported into another world, usually to get lost halfway through; or they have three endings and don't know which to choose. Some well-known authors write that way. If I were going on a journey, I would want to know my destination before I set out or I would probably find three possible turnings and not know which to go down. A lot of writers have unfinished manuscripts in their desk drawers from losing control to their characters and not knowing where they are heading but as Cyn Mobley has over 40 books in print, I'm with her. However, as far as the deadlines for each action go, with the best intentions I have far too much going on in my life to reach them. I've never missed a publisher's deadline yet and the fastest I wrote a book was in three months but setting a deadline for myself is another thing. I've never taken much notice of myself.
The Snowflake Process
A few years ago, I remember reading something called The 'Snowflake' Process for Designing Novels by software architect Randy Ingermanson. He believes that good fiction is designed before it's written. He also follows the Three Act Structure technique. One idea sparks off another and since then, I've noticed a plethora of 'writing by number books' coming onto the market, so choose with care. I can recommend these two, which I think were the forerunners.
Randy's article can be downloaded free from his writing site at http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/ and BAM can be obtained through http://www.amazon.com/ or direct from Cyn Mobley http://www.cynmobley.com/ (don't be put off by the greyhounds; they're her passion).
And about humour, when I did my MA in scriptwriting, a fellow student was asked why she had left three blank spaces on every page of her script. 'Those are for the laughs,' she said. 'I'm going to fill them in later.' We had been told that for comedy, we needed to have three laughs to a page.