Wednesday, June 08, 2005

From your head to the page...


It's a glorious sunny day in London. I've just been for a walk through Highgate Woods with a friend and now I'm back at my desk getting ready to hunker down for the afternoon with the manuscript for Let's Get Lost. Really though, I want to go outside and play!

Time to answer a question though. SweetSugarRush asked: I write stories, well try to, and i have great plots for them in my head but i can't seem to get them off the ground. Do you have any ideas which could help me get them off the ground and onto my paper?

I know exactly what you mean! I carried Guitar Girl around in my head for years before I ever got a chance to write it and I learnt so much during the process. Sometimes writing can seem like this big, mystical thing when actually I've found that I need to be really organised about it.

So the first thing I do is write a really detailed chapter by chapter synopsis. I usually know where the story is going to start and where it's going to end and vaguely how it's going to get there but it needs to be fleshed out. So for Guitar Girl, my chapter synopsis started like this:

Chapter one
Molly starts a band as a laugh to play a birthday party for a friend. It’s just her, Jane and Tara. Molly writes a bunch of songs about everything from secretly being a superhero to the crush she has on the boy who works in her local corner shop. They go down a storm.

Chapter two
They actually get a proper paid gig and at the end of it, Dean approaches Molly and basically tells her that he’s joining the band. They arrange an audition/rehearsal and he turns up with T. It sounds better, almost like a proper band and the two boys are in. They even decide on a name, The Hormones
They take a while to get used to being in a band. The three girls are still at school and Dean and T have McJobs. Molly concentrates on studying for her A-levels and writing songs about mermaids and the little toys that you get in those plastic eggs outside supermarkets, while Dean helps her with the guitar parts.

You don't have to follow it to the letter and you'll probably discover that as you start writing, the story may just decide to tell itself.

The other thing I do is little character sketches so I know exactly who I'm writing about. So, again for Guitar Girl, I started with:

Molly, 17. Not one of the in-crowd at school but secure in the knowledge that she’s her own person. She’s quirky, very funny, has her own style and her own little clique of friends. She plays guitar, sings and writes a lot of the songs.
Jane is Molly’s best friend. She plays keyboards, tambourine and anything else that’s needed. She’s pretty and flaky.
Dean, 20. Other guitarist. Meets Molly at a gig and they decide to form a band. They argue all the time but also seem to really connect.
T, 20, is Dean’s friend and gets drafted in to play bass at the eleventh hours. He’s very cynical and withdrawn.
Tara is a friend of Molly’s who plays the drums. She’s the one constant element in the band and always tries to keep the peace and not take sides. She’s secretly in love with Molly.
Paul is in his late 20’s and becomes the band’s manager once they become quite well known.

But before I start writing, I go into more detail so I think about what books my characters are reading, what they're listening to, where they buy clothes, what they do on a Saturday night and so it almost feels like they're in the room with me or a voice in my head saying, "I would never talk like that!"

Another cool thing to do is to make a mix CD of the songs that you characters would listen to or that you think really captures their essence.

These are all good little tactics that you can use to plan out your story and take it a stage where it's not just an idea in your head but something that demands to be told. When it actually comes to writing, though everyone's different. Some writers I know set aside a certain amount of time every day to write and are really strict about the amount they write. And others are quite happy to sprawl out on the sofa, with the TV on and their laptops perched on the coffee table.

One cute thing I like to do though is measure my word count on a little bar so I can keep track of how I'm doing. I like this one best of all:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
754 / 2,000

You can change the colour and post your word count in your blog so your friends can cheer you on!

I hope that helps. These are all the devices I use but every writer finds things that works for them. Just remember there's no right or wrong way to do it, it's whatever you're happiest doing that makes your story come alive.

Good luck!


SweetSugarRush said...

Thanks, i'm going to go and put some of your techniques to use and i'll elt you know how i get on.

xx Nicky xx

WannabeWriter said...

Great tips, I definitely have to save this post somewhere ... where in the world will I save it ... but anyway, I'm going to run off and organize!!


Thanks again. By the way, you seem like a really cool writer. I can't wait to start the Diary of a Crush trilogy, I've got it on my "Need-to-Read List."

- > Paige, U.S. < -