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.
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.
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.
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.