Monday, 26 March 2012

How to be a Proper Writer - Do Revisions

(The Splurge Method - Part 2)

You now have a whole first draft. 

It is important to sing with
your duck in the shower.
Most people who set out to write a novel never get to this point and so you should take time to congratulate yourself and bask in the warm glow of achievement. This might also be a good time to have that shower and brush your teeth. 

When you are ready to return to your manuscript you do so with the knowledge that you are a proper writer. Proper writers do revisions; over and over and over again. They start big - fixing the story first - and get smaller, moving on to scenes and finally sentences. You can't fix everything in one rewrite, so it's pointless to try.

Next, take your manuscript, read through it and write a chapter by chapter breakdown of the action, plot points and character idiosyncrasies; all the dynamics of the book in fact. And as you lurch from chapter to chapter you will realise that you are both a) a genius and b) totally inadequate. 

You will be surprised and amazed at how your mind works, how your ideas flowed while splurging and how one thought led to another.

At the same time you will be appalled at how often you
  • Repeated yourself
  • Did not explain something
  • Told your story in the wrong order
  • Allowed yourself to write in on too many sub-plots
  • Lost the ability to spell
  • Could not coherent string a together sentence
DO NOT be tempted to tamper with the story before you have finished this chapter by chapter breakdown or else you'll end up in an awful mess and lose all coherent trains of thought. If you do have pertinent questions to ask yourself or new ideas to write in, make a note of them in the margin or somewhere, BUT STICK TO THE PROCESS.

And if you do, the reward is space; that's space as in distance, which is so valuable when you need to be objective. When you have space you have the ability to view your story as a whole, rather than a collection of chapters. You will understand its strengths, weaknesses, plot, character, motivations, timing, continuity, etc with some level of detachment. You will get to grips with heart of the story, and really understand its premise, meaning and aims.

Put simply, you will have a better picture of what you have created and what you need to do next. Only then should you set about rearranging and reorganising your manuscript for the first of many rewrites.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

How to Write a Book Using the Splurge Method (Part 1)

Is this you? Then you need to
try the Splurge Method
I am writing my current novel using the famous Splurge Method of creativity. This is a particularly useful method for procrastinators, dilly-dallyers, and them what gets stuck easily.

Critics of the Splurge Method have suggested it is haphazard and time consuming and a bit like flower arranging in boxing gloves. 

Proponents of the method are addicted to the buzz of adrenalin to be gotten whilst living so precariously.

If you too would like to follow this method, here’s how in five easy steps.

1.  Think up an idea for your story
2.  Research (lovely research)
3.  Prepare; including characters, motivations, plot points, setting, style etc
4.  Plan your plot in fine detail
5.  Start writing, anything and everything which comes into your head.

It’s at point #5 where Splurging really comes into its own. Ideas beget ideas and characters (if given a free rein) will develop a life, opinions and behaviours of their own. They will tamper with your plot and send you off down all sorts of dark alleys and dead ends, as well as providing you with a few magic carpet rides to pure bliss.

BUT, if you go with the flow you’ll find yourself firing on all cylinders and sparking all over the place. It’s fun, you’re alive and your creativity will be buzzing.

At roughly twenty or thirty thousand words into the story, you will begin to realise that you are so far from your plan; you might never get back to it.


The temptation to stop writing, breathe, shower, tidy the house and organise your ideas is really strong here. Some people call this the middle of manuscript blues. All your metaphorical balls are up in the air at once and it’s damn scary. How are you ever going to catch them again?

But I want to say to you - DON’T STOP. Don’t give in to the temptation to be organised and on plan. Don’t listen to your doubts or your fears or that little voice at the back of your head saying, time to tidy up.  This is exactly the moment where you need to keep going. You need to write through the anxiety, write through the pain barrier, and keep splurging everything out. Who cares if it’s a mess and doesn’t make sense?

You’re going to rewrite it all anyway.

A satisfied proponent
of the Splurge Method
Eventually you will reach the end of your first draft. It may not be what you had planned, but it will be rich in ideas and loaded with character; plus, you will have something tangible to work with - a whole first draft!

This is the time to stop, take off the boxing gloves and try to bring order from your creative chaos. (See next blog - coming soon!) A great deal of what you have written will be cut and lots more will be added. With every rewrite, there will be more and better ideas, but gradually, over the course of time, these ideas will gain more and more focus and eventually you will have a ‘finished’ novel.

Writing is rewriting, we all know that. But if you are struggling to start somewhere, start with the Splurge Method.