Planning a novel …

… is a strange and frustrating business, despite my colleague’s beautiful vine and wire analogy.

My heart gives a little leap of excitement each time I think I’ve ‘got it’, only to find that what I thought I’d got won’t work, because something else comes to light as a result of what I thought I’d got.

I would love to be able to look on this process as a puzzle: (image from the Crafty Puzzle Company), as I’ve heard Peter Matthiessen say that he does. I’ve also heard him say that while meditating – he practices Zen Buddhism – the answer to a plot puzzle sometimes comes to him, which is frustrating because he can’t get up and write it down. But when he told his Zen Master this, the Master simply smiled and said, ‘Well of course you must go and write it down.’

I admit that I am less frustrated with Hope Remains (working title for the novel that was, once, a biography of my great-grandmother) than I was at this stage with Speaking of Love because I know, having got there once before, that the puzzle will resolve itself eventually (or, I will resolve it). But I am impatient to write before I’ve done enough planning even though I know, from bitter experience, that to write too soon means writing for miles down the wrong road.

What I need is a plausible connection between Jennie, my twenty-first century protagonist, and Noel, my own (fictionalised) Edwardian great-grandmother beyond the Titanic (possible title there …). It must be something that Jennie would, plausibly, not have known. I thought I had it last night but this morning the sun is shining brilliantly through the holes. With any luck the sun will shine on a watertight solution tomorrow … .

About Angela

I write fiction about the difficulty we have when we try to say what's in our hearts.
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6 Responses to Planning a novel …

  1. BooksPlease says:

    This often happens to me – what I think is brilliant at night turns out to be ordinary and unsatisfactory next day. Not exactly encouraging for you but it is for me – to realise I’m not the only one who thinks like this.

  2. Karen says:

    Perhaps turning your attention to another part of the puzzle might reveal the solution to this bit?
    Good luck!

  3. Angela Young says:

    Thank you both … it’s good to have the ‘it’s brilliant’ at night translating into ‘it’s not that great’ in the morning confirmed as more than a book-planning experience. And I shall immediately start paying attenton to another part of the puzzle … .

  4. Juxtabook says:

    Perhaps you should just try winging it, and see what happens. I always say I don’t know what I think until I’ve read what I have written. I appreciate it is a bit more difficult when it is a vital part of an over-arching puzzle, but perhaps the solution will appear when you are trying to write round it. I always think that so long as you are writing something will occur to you. Good luck.

  5. Lisa says:

    Wish I could offer you some brilliant advice, but I can’t. But, I know you’ll come up with something. It’s really neat for me (reader, not a writer) to see this part of the process. Good luck!

  6. Angela Young says:

    Thank you Juxtabook and Lisa both … sometimes I don’t know what I think till I see what I say (EM Forster quoted that in Aspects of the Novel and it is truly true, sometimes).

    But this time I need to solve a
    bit of the puzzle before I can write, but I think I got there last night … .

    Buried in a bit of novel-related research these next few days, but that might do the trick too.