Every day along with my daily writing prompts I get interesting or inspirational quotes from established writers. Sometimes these are good, sometimes they’re predictable and some days they just Do Not Compute. Take today’s, from A S Byatt:
‘Don’t start writing until you know where you’re going.’
Immediately I thought, ‘well, that wouldn’t work for me at all because I never know where I’m going; not until I get there, and sometimes not even then.’ Some of the best stuff I’ve done has been written completely cluelessly with no plan, no concept and no destination. If I’d planned a novel and knew each chapter in detail I’d be so bored I wouldn’t want to write the damned thing at all. I can have a vague idea but the thing has to unfold for me just as it does for the reader.
Not that I don’t wish it otherwise. Sometimes I’d give my eye teeth to have a plot idea I could send off to a publisher, like: ‘A Bulgarian milkman moves to Germany after unification and discovers that his father was a war criminal.’ That sort of thing. Instead of which, what have I got? ‘I’m writing a novel based on the Fibonacci sequence and the concept of spirals.’ What? What? So what happens? ‘Well, I don’t know yet. There’s a lot of stuff about Brexit – but I won’t know what happens until it’s finished. Maybe not even then…’ It’s hardly the stuff that gets three-figure advances….
The thing is, most people start with a plot. They sketch it out, then in come some characters and start interacting. A setting suggests itself; then some dialogue. Finally, if at all, comes the philosophy. But me? I get it completely backwards: first the philosophical concept, then the characters and setting and finally – if at all – the plot. Such as it is.
Mind you, I thought I’d come up with a brilliant plot the other day. I rushed in to tell OH about it:
‘How’s this for a short story idea? You have some women who do exactly what men want, who flatter them and obey their every whim – and in the end they turn out to be robots.’ As I was outlining this the smile on OH’s face was becoming more and more fixed. ‘So what do you think?’ I finished up.
Turned out I’d described exactly the plot of The Stepford Wives. (In my defence I haven’t actually seen the film but I should have known all the same.)
Hope you all had a good Easter. Yesterday Daniel and I went to visit my parents’ graves and on the way back we had a Grimbister.