One of the things that aids a good procrastinator, sorry I mean distracts a good writer, is that there is endless debate about the best way to go about writing.
So first you must decide if you are a planner or not. This refers to whether you will plan your manuscript to the last comma before setting pen to paper or whether you just sit down and let it all flow freely.
I’m not sure either of these extremes really work. Any time I’ve just written I’ve ended up with a rather large rant about whatever happens to be bugging me at the time. Therapeutic, definitely; good quality reading, not at all. And most importantly not a good foundation for something as large as a novel.
I tried to emulate a good friend and her exhaustive planning and research but it sucked the, admittedly fragile, spark of enthusiasm out of me. The planning was tiring and tiresome.
I did find something helpful in the writing.ie National Emerging Writer Programme when Carlo Gebler described writing as similar to stringing a tightrope between two points (in the Start at the Beginning video). You know where you start and have an aim in mind and then whatever you do, you don’t look down. Just keep going until you reach your goal. I’m not sure I’ll write an ending just after my beginning but I did think it was important to know where I was heading. So I started to outline my story. I found these rather helpful questions and I’ve worked my way through them. And I know where I’m starting from and where I’m heading.
Now again there are a million ways to go from here. I’ve already done a bit of work on my characters. I know who they are and roughly what their lives are like. I know their timelines though this may be subject to revision. I haven’t done a huge amount of research as this appears to be a large black hole of procrastination. There are some dates I need to be aware of but that’s about my limit for the moment. If something comes up as I write, then I’ll reconsider. I’m trying to let the writing lead, not the other way around.
I feel I need to do some blocking, just as a stage manager would. This group over here for that, seeing where and who the main players will be at any point. It’s not going to be particularly thorough. My aim is to make sure that there are no major problems in my timeline and give me a rough road map for writing.
At some point during my avoidance of outlining, yes even having decided to do it and knowing the value there is still resistance to be overcome, I realised something – bribery is a good thing. There I was thinking it was only good for keeping the children in line, but now I’ve realised it can work for me too! I can bribe myself too. So when I finish the first draft I will reward myself. The first draft is only the beginning I know, but with writing being the problem for me, finishing the first draft is my first major goal.
And the great thing is it gives me a focus for my procrastination…