I suppose it depends what type of writer you are, whether you are a planner who gets everything sorted well before the creative writing starts or if you are more like me, someone who prefers to get the heart of the story onto the page and then go back and sort things out a bit?
There are pro’s and con’s to both systems, of course, it really comes down to a personal choice rather than one being right and one being wrong; it really is whatever works for you!
That said there are times when I wish that I took the more structured approach as I think that it might just save me a bit of time and work in the long run.
I am working on volume two of The Sorrow Song Trilogy and I have about 72,000 words written. There’s a dynamic relationship between two major characters that needs developing to bring a bit more excitement and drama to the narrative whilst the story heads towards an almighty climax.
Now when I was writing the 72,000 words I knew that I would have to go back and develop certain points, events and characters. It is not so much a problem as a need to insert a passage with a little consideration, perception and skill.
When I reviewed the draft manuscript I saw an opportunity to insert an episode that would build up the tension and make the reader (hopefully) care about one of the characters in particular. It also gives this character, her name is Mildryth by the way, a chance to prove her strength of character in dealing with a very dangerous situation instigated by a man who has already been revealed to a murderer and thief.
As this is historical fiction I have to be aware of the chronology of events in both a historical sense and with regards to the chronology of the plot, which all means that finding the opportune moment to introduce this new episode is crucial. It has to fit seamlessly, a fact all good writers understand, into what has already been written, which is where the consideration comes in.
To achieve this I picked a likely spot in the manuscript, marked it, and then read every chapter leading up to it. This gave me a fresh memory of what I had written and confirmed that I had picked the right moment in the story to insert the new work.
Again, because of my preferred style, this was not a one shot deal. I wrote the piece quickly to try and get all the excitement down on the page. Then I rewrote it almost immediately, only this time conscious of the material already written earlier in the novel, the historical background and the fact that female ninjas did not exist in 11th century England!
Next came the proof reading, spell checking, the enriching of the cultural background and the editing to rid the piece of any pretence of being a historical essay; I sometimes find that my urge to retain a degree of historical integrity can lead me into writing in a very dry and academic style; something that must be amended at all costs!
Finally, if I am happy with the final written piece, I go back and re-read the manuscript again, making notes where necessary, and carry out a final judgement; did it work? Do the characters interact sufficiently? Is there tension? Did I achieve what I set out to do? Was the insertion invisible in consideration of the rest of the manuscript?
Happily, I can say yes in each instance. It did not hurt at all really. I enjoyed the writing and the editing, but you know what, a female ninja might make a good character for a more contemporary novel!