Using Building Blocks To…

Elaine chats about building her stories from the very beginning.

Last week, Francesca and I talked about what we automatically put into our writing and also what we leave out. That made me think about my process of working, so I thought I would share it with you.

First, it’s the idea of the story, which often starts off with something vague. As an example, Forgotten Love started as a mother who had wanted to return to education. That brought up a whole list of questions.

Scene Plan

Scene Plan

Why had she left her education early?

Why had she married young?

Why did she want to return to education?

What did her family think about it?

Did they support her, if not why not?

What issues did she come across on her journey?

What relationship issues did it bring up?

How would she cope?

These are only a few of the questions, but as you can see, my vague idea has given me a lot to think about. From these questions came the brain storming, or mind mapping, no matter how ridiculous the conflict might have seemed, it was written on there. You never know where one idea can take you.

Draft Chapter Breakdown

Draft Chapter Breakdown

Once I had chosen my preferred elements of conflict, I then wrote the synopsis, which proceeded to be converted into a chapter breakdown. Excitement buzzes through me as the novel begins to take shape. Obviously there are gaps in my chapter breakdown, but that’s what gives me the artistic licence for my story to evolve.

Part of my process also involves a scene plan. To coin somebody else’s phrase, you know who you are Elaine Everest, this is a shopping list of what each scene should include, as in what I want to happen and what senses could be used. My first draft begins. In the past, I have used NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), in November, to write my first draft, mainly because it doesn’t need to be correct. My first draft is just about getting the story written, then I tear it apart and add in the obvious things I have missed out. The five senses, and often description, are the areas I’m usually lacking in.

Forgotten Love Synopsis

Forgotten Love Synopsis

After the editing process, which for me is the longest and most time consuming part of my novel writing, I revisit my synopsis. Maybe I should change that last sentence because my synopsis always feels like it takes forever to get right. To get my story onto one sheet of A4 paper always feels like a mountain I can’t climb, but obviously I do, eventually.

I am sometimes asked whether I enjoy writing and the overall answer is probably no. I enjoy the first draft, getting the story down, but getting it book shaped, as Julie Cohen calls it, I find to be painful. However, it’s like a drug, I can’t help myself. I have lost track of how many times I’ve said that’s it, I am not doing it anymore, but less than an hour later I’m back fighting the demons and getting my manuscript book-shaped.

The question is, am I alone in this? Please tell me I’m not.


8 thoughts on “Using Building Blocks To…

  1. Another excellent post, Elaine. Its good to know some students listen – ha! I do feel that as you plan and research properly before you start to write you will find you will have more than a first draft when you come to the end of the book. Once you have that publishing contract in your hands there won’t be so much time to go over and over a book once written – apart from read throughs to satisfy yourself that what you planned to say has been achieved. This is why that ‘shopping list’ is so important. xx

    • Thanks Elaine. I do try hard, my biggest problem is time. There are times when I feel all I do is go to work and write but I am trying to achieve more in my first draft to speed up the process a little. Elaine R x

  2. Another interesting blog, Elaine which shows your complete dedication and commitment to your writing. You have such an admirably disciplined approach, you shame the rest of us.

  3. I think there must be a masochistic streak in all writers. You say you’ve been on the point of giving up, something I’m sure we all recognise in ourselves, but your dedication to you craft is absolute, the way you approach your work is professional. It’s like a marriage. The occasional spat, or maybe just a small tiff from time to time, but these in themselves bring you closer together. You’ve had an amazing journey so far. I’m looking forward to the next stage

    • Thank you Natalie, I appreciate your words of encouragement. You could be right about the masochistic streak. Elaine R.

  4. Interesting post 🙂
    I quite enjoy editing (she whispers) – probably no bad thing as editing is sometimes a big part of my weekly workload. Structural editing can be a challenge, but line-editing gives me a bit of a buzz. I enjoy honing something until it says exactly what you want it to say, and says it in the clearest and best way possible. Very satisfying. But I’m aware that puts me in the freakish minority! 😉
    I use the questioning method too, although often that’s more of a mental process for me, with one question leading to another. Sometimes I jot them down as they occur to me and let my mind work on them.
    Yesterday I realised I had a couple of elements to bind my hero and heroine together, but that her conflict was mainly with someone else. I needed something extra to keep my hero and heroine apart for a while. Solving that gave me a whole new event and chapter one, and changed the beginning of the novel completely!

    • Hi Alison, I’m pleased you found the post interesting. It’s alway good to get everyone’s feedback. It’s also interesting to hear how other people work. You’ll be pleased to know that I don’t think you are in the minority in your enjoyment of line edits, I’ve heard other writers say they enjoy making their manuscript book shaped. I, on the other hand, love writing the first draft and tend to lose interest when it comes to the edits but I struggle through it. As we now, love it or hate it, writing runs through our veins and we can’t not do it. Even the bits we hate! Elaine R x

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