Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Writing Process

I'm pretty smug about my blog.

I've been lucky enough to interview two great authors so far. Ian Hocking and Robyn Young. And I asked them both about how they went about actually planning and writing a novel, because I really wanted to find out how succesful authors did it so I could hopefully follow in their footsteps.

Robyn revealed that she had ELEVEN drafts of Brethren, which is pretty amazing. And on Ian's blog, he pretty firmly puts his opinion across that 'real' writers don't plot things out. They just sit down and write.

I can't argue with him there. After all, that's the same technique Stephen King uses and he's one of the last century's most popular and prolific authors.

I have to admit, though, that I can't aspire to the heady levels of Stephen, Ian and Robyn. I've been writing stories since I was about twelve and if I've learnt one thing, it's that I need to plan them out.

If I don't plan my stories, they end up going nowhere. I write myself into a corner and I can't work my way out of it. Previous attempts at novel length stories, like The Island Affair, have involved me writing six different 'branching' versions until they all end up sunk.

So I plan my stories. I plan 'em like crazy.

For Adventure Eddy, I spent three months writing a chapter by chapter plan of the story. It ran to 20,000 words and almost 100 pages. And I suffered writer's block on that, I'm telling you. Plot leads ran dry. Characters acted... well, out of character. As each mishap mishappened, I was grateful that I hadn't written the full novel up to this point (since I'd normally have to chop the last three chapters and start again.)

The upshot of this was that, when I actually sat down and wrote the story, I never once experienced writer's block. Everything was already established in my head. The story hung together and all I had to do was transfer the stuff in my head onto the page.

So that's why I've decided to plan out every story from now on.

Which leads me onto The Bootleg Boys.

This was the story I'd started when I thought up the plot for Adventure Eddy. It featured Eddy coming back from France and I wanted to write the prequel to explain what he was doing there.

Now that's established, I decided to carry on with the story. It was all pretty much in my head. I just needed to cement the plot.

And in doing so, I decided there were two things that needed to be changed. Two characters, to be exact.

First off, Tania Masterson.

You probably don't know who she is. Back when I first wrote Adventure Eddy stories, I created her as the spoilt daughter of classic car collector Phillip Masterson. She, like one hundred hackneyed episodes of The Saint, was the love interest daughter - since respectable fiction didn't feature girls who could drive stories of their own.

In the Bootleg Boys, her role had changed. Daddy was out of the picture, but she was still the same icy, focused blonde.

But the thing is, she clashed. In writing the plot plan for The Bootleg Boys, Tania never sat right. She clashed with the other two female characters, Melissa and Lucy.

In plotting out The Bootleg Boys, I decided to axe her in favour of Esperanza.

Esperanza, like Eddy before her, stepped into my head a fully formed character. A skinny, tomboy Spanish girl with a mean streak. Immediately, the she made my story flesh out with amusing episodes of pyschosis and a touching back story.

Secondly, and more significantly, was Angus.

Angus Connelly is almost as old as Eddy. I thought him up as the sensible foil to Adventure Eddy's mischief. He was unabashadly based on my best friend at the time, Fraser. A tough, no-nonsense Scot (well, Fraser was a Geordie) with a wry sense of humour, Angus was the sort of person you'd love to have at your back when you got into trouble.

But the problem was, Angus was one dimensional.

Each story involved him being the straight man to Eddy's goofy quips, the sensible one who convinced Eddy not to launch his more mental schemes. That was it. That and the fact that he was Scottish.

A year or so ago, I came up with a new friend for Eddy.

Now, this runs the risk of sounding incredibly politically correct, but I was aware of the fact that Adventure Eddy's universe was inhabited pretty much exclusively by people of the caucasion persuasion. So the character of Pranay seemed to fit in perfectly. A second generation (is that right? His parents were Indian) Londoner who was a cocky, street-smart and cunning equal to Eddy.

I stole the name Pranay from my instructor on my The Local Radio Company induction weekend.

Unlike Angus, Pranay had enormous potential as a character. He was sassy, smart mouthed and clever. As soon as I dreamt him up, I could imagine him hustling money, making deals and basically being the perfect foil to posh, dumb Eddy.

Putting together the story for the bootleg boys, I'm really excited to have these new characters to play with!

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