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Humps in the Road

July 9, 2012
Posted at 12:04 pm

I've managed to get over one of my early Humps in the Road - metaphorically speaking, of course. What am I talking about? Indulge me while I explain.

I've always been a fairly 'linear' writer - that is to say that I tend to write a story, regardless of its length - from beginning to end, scene after scene. Not all writers work this way. Some will write scenes at random - starting with the most 'important' and then fill in the bits in-between once those road markers are done. It was a pretty famous rumour that J K Rowling wrote the last scene of the last Harry Potter book before she'd even finished the first book, although, I don't know how true that is.

But for me, writing 'linearly' works. I tend to see my stories as "films in my head" and films, well most of them, are pretty linear beasts. I like working this way because what has already been written can influence what follows, even if it means a story deviates from its original plan. Yes, I do start out with a plan - a sketch or outline of the plot if you like.

But writing linearly has its disadvantages as well. For example, it may well be that I write a scene that means I have to go and re-write an earlier part of the story to make it fit. This can be an advantage too, as I have no problems with going back and adding bits for foreshadow what's now been written later on.

But the biggest problem with writing linearly is the Humps in the Road. Think of the plot outline as a roadmap. Start at point A and get to point F via points B, C, D and E. However, in-between those major plot points, you have to take the scenic route. Take time to stop and admire the view, so to speak. But it's these points in a story that are the most difficult to write. It's as if each major plot point is at the summit of a hill, and climbing that hill can be hard work. Of course, coming down the other side is hard work too, but a different kind of work - you have to work at controlling yourself and not 'overwriting'.

Now, for someone who doesn't write linearly, the humps in the road that you have to climb are not a problem - you just skip from one summit to the next and worry about climbing them later. But for me, a hump in the road can cause you to stop writing for a period - be it a few days, a couple of weeks or longer.

And, thankfully, I've just climbed over one of those humps and it only took me the weekend. Although, stopping to watch the GP down the road and then Murray lose at Wimbledon probably added to the delay somewhat.

I'm glad this hump took a fairly short time to get over. I'm still fairly early in the story, and having just returned to it from my family break, I'd hate to have gotten bogged down so soon. As it was, I've just written three fairly important plot points, and I was in the valley between them and the next - which is just as important.

Onwards and upwards now then. Onwards and upwards.