For me, one of the hardest things about writing a story is keeping the plot under control.
Most authors seem to be able to construct a nice, orderly line which connects each scene and pushes the plot sensibly towards its resolution. When I try to do it, I feel like I’m wrestling with an uncooperative python. Whole new characters and concepts erupt from the page like pirates, hijacking my meticulously planned narrative and steering it wildly off course.
“Aha! Simon-lad! You weren’t be expectin’ a dragon to raise its head there now, were ye?” This literary usurper even has a pirate voice.
“No. Of course not. There aren’t any dragons in this story. It’s about an accountant.”
“There be dragons now! Deal with it, landlubber.”
This can be fun and I know it’s led to some good ideas – I sometimes feel like I’m discovering the story for the first time, rather than distilling the thoughts that have been clogging me up all day.
But it means that I don’t tell the exact story that I set out to tell.
I tried to write “The Clockwork Butterfly” as a simple, linear (although obviously incredibly exciting) fantasy story. Six years later it turns out that it includes a massively complex time travelling paradox (and Vikings and vuryl and the Carnival Umbretico) that will require at least seven more huge tomes to explain. It certainly, to my mind, makes the novel richer and more interesting, but it bears only passing resemblance to what I imagined when I started.
“Charlie’s Worries” seems to be taking a similar diversion at the moment too. I was thinking about this problem yesterday morning and I decided that I would use the upcoming NaNoWriMo to exercise my focussing muscle. After a few moments thought though I realised that this wouldn’t be appropriate really. NaNoWriMo celebrates the wild flights of fancy that come and encourages the writer to be as free as possible. It would be counter-productive to impose any self-imposed constraints.
So I shrugged and forgot about it for a bit.
Later, while trying to match various agents with their twitter accounts, I came across a link to Hot Key Unlocked. A writing competition sort of thing? A competition where I’m given a strict outline to work to? A competition that is absolutely what I would not usually write?
This is surely too much of a coincidence. This is the perfect opportunity to test my focus. To write the first 2,000 words of a 20,000 word novella about romance and love and sexy stuff will test me to the limit.
It’s got to be submitted by 13th October. So I’m going to give it a go.