Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The path I choose to follow

Lately I've been thinking about my novel, Missing Since Tuesday a lot, and have found myself getting bogged down with ideas; so many ideas in fact, that I feel I'm lacking a clear direction and it's going to end up too full of observation and become boring.
Don't get me wrong, I have pages and pages of great writing (well, I think it's great and all the people who have read it think it's great...) and a head full almost to the brim of ideas, but it's just too much sometimes!
The main problem is that every time I go on a research mission, a new strand gets added to the story - I find out about an event I didn't know about like New Zealand's Centennial Exhibition at Rongotai in 1940 and I see my characters there socialising, talking about the war and such, and then the whole story ends up changing around it and I can't settle it for long enough to get past chapter six (I've written six chapters in order, but I do have about fifteen more that are scattered randomly and I'm not sure where they fit).
With so much history, so much information, it's hard to find a middle ground - to know when to draw the line and get to the point of the story.

So to all you writers out there reading my blog (thanks for reading!), what would your advice be? How do you draw the line on information and how do you settle on one direction for your story so the writing flows smoothly instead of changing all the time?


  1. Well I don't know what others would say but the only thing I can think of right now is to step back from what you're writing, and look at it from a neutral point of view. Don't read it with the mindset of "It's my work" but rather "I need to edit this paper." Pretend you're editing someone else's work. If the story seems to drag on and on in some parts then take that particular area and re-read it over and over again, taking out certain parts each time until you figure out what you can leave out permanently.

    It's a strange tactic but it's one I use from time to time.

  2. I am not a novelist, but I would have thought that you would need to sketch out your main story, and that some of your researched information will sit well with that plot and some won't. Anything you discard you can use in a sequel, or in some other book. You don't need to use everything you have researched in this one book as the end result will be a dog's breakfast, as they say in the classics. Think of it as a headstart on your next book, and keep this one, Missing Since Tuesday, as tight as you can. Historical detail needs to be subtle background stuff, giving the flavour of realism to your story. In my opinion :-) alan

    1. I agree with Alan. Sketch out your story almost in the shape of a tree. If there are too many branches you probably have too much in there, and you can then discard for two reasons, firstly because it would be more appropriate for a sequel or prequel (I hate that word), and secondly because it simply does not lend itself to a plausible piece of literature.

      Good luck.

  3. I start with character sketches,then put my heroine someplace complicated and let her lead the way. But I'm a spewer. I just start at the beginning and write. No research yet, a plot idea but no real "line" until I get where one grabs me. It's the rough draft, an old tradition, yeah, but has worked down through the ages. And it's fun! Little gems pop out of your mind as you write. It's spontaneous, often reflects your mood, the day. During edits, stuff will go, other stuff will come. I love that about writing. Don't forget, above all things, it's creating!!

  4. I feel your pain, this is something almost all authors struggle with. I know I did. One of the things my clients have done may help you. If you write an "ad' for the book before you begin to write the book, or in your case at this point, it forces you to settle many of the issues you are struggling with now, in advance. Even though it is not a real ad and will probably never be used, you have to make decisions as to who will read the book, what they will be looking for, etc. Once these big issues are out of the way and assuming you can stay with them, many of the minor issues fall away and you can stay focused. The whole process goes much faster because of the decisions you made by writing the "ad".

    OK, hope this helps. Edward Smith.

  5. I understand completely what you're going through. I've been through this same predicament several times. What helps me is what Pam recommend. I start with character sketches and let my character lead the way.
    There are so many great historical events (I love history by the way) that I'd love to place my characters into. Instead I tend to see where my character takes me first before deciding.
    Remember, this is a rough draft and you will go back and revise it anyway. :) Good luck!

  6. Thanks so much everyone for your advice, I'm glad my problem is not just my own, it's encouraging to know there are other writers who have been through the same thing. I'm not sure which way I want to go, but at the moment I think I just need to let the story evolve and research as I go.
    @Edward Smith: Interesting you should say that, I was thinking about that very same thing after I wrote this post yesterday. I also like to keep in mind what I would like the critics to say about it when it's released. Something like "A stunning portrait of Wellington and its people then and now" would suffice I think haha.
    Thanks again people, much appreciated.
    Sarah xo

  7. I think just let it inspire you, and write what you feel strongly about.

  8. I have to agree with Toni. Sometimes you need to allow inspiration to take control over your writing. You may be surprised with where this may lead you. Good luck!

  9. I have two helps on my blog. First, watch the Dan Well's video seminar on story structure. Each segment is 10 minutes. You really need to recognize what's essential and what you should save for another book by learning the 7 point system. It's similar to screenwriting & other story structure classes I've taken.

    Then read my post about Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Plotting system. Only you can decide how much detail to plan in advance, a simple flake or intricate. The more advance planning, the faster you'll finish the book. Even the simple flake will give you pitch, blurb, & synopsis.