I had a plan. I was going to finish this novel by the end of 2015. Then I was going to give it a quick whizz through and send it out to a couple of trusted beta readers so I could have it ready to chuck out into the world some time in the first quarter of this year.
Then December came along with all that December brings with it and I ended up not writing a word between the end of November and the beginning of January. And the problem was that I’d left my main character on the cusp of the BIG REVEAL which would explain pretty much everything that had happened in the rest of the book.
This was a problem because during December, when I wasn’t able to find the time to sit down and write, I was constantly going over the big reveal in my head and planning how it was going to unfold. Over and over again. The result of this was that by the time I sat down to write it, it already felt as if the big reveal had been going on for a month and I was frankly bored of the whole thing. I ended up with a horrible, clunky mess.
I guess it all comes of not plotting. I somehow imagined with this book that at some point I’d sit down and work out what was going to happen and why, but somehow I never actually did. I raised this with my tutor at Bath Spa and, to my considerable surprise, she told me that if I felt comfortable with not plotting, I didn’t actually need to. So I didn’t. And I was very pleased to find out recently that Ian Rankin feels exactly the same way (and, it turns out, for much the same reasons).
The downside of not plotting is that you tend to end up with a massive tangle of stuff to explain at the end. This is really good if your aim is to confuse the reader, which I guess is the case in the kind of mystery novel I’m working on. However, the time has to come when you do have to sort it out, but – and here’s the tricky bit – without looking as if you’re sorting it out. I suppose it’s analogous to the problem with exposition at the start of a novel. It’s probably necessary for you to explain, for example, that your characters have three arms, are the size of ants and live on a square planet called Zöbsqurtz, but do you let that emerge during the course of a (possibly rather stilted) piece of dialogue or do you just come out and just say it? Or do you incorporate some kind of device like Douglas Adam’s Hitch Hiker’s Guide?
Anyway, I ended up disposing of the large clunky explanatory mess (and one entire character, who now no longer needs to make an appearance at all) and I’ve now got a slightly tighter, slightly less clunky explanatory mess. The really good thing is that I’m happy enough with it to put it to one side and continue on to the spectacular final scene, which I’m enjoying a LOT more.
85000 words down, maybe 5000 to go. Let’s say we’ll do this by the end of January, right?