January comes and goes and by February I have something resembling an outline. There are too many characters and not enough scenes. Should I cut it down to a short story or should I simply concede defeat and quit? I’ll never be good enough.
But good enough for what?
Selling a million copies so I can finally afford that Bentley I’ve been after even though I didn’t get around to learning how to drive? Making my ex-girlfriends and enemies jealous? Showing to my long-suffering wife so she can nod and tell me how talented I am? How do you define ‘good’?
I came to the conclusion that you have to write for yourself. If you don’t want to read the final product, then sure as shit no other fucker will. Create something you love first of all, everything after that is just a bonus.
There are scores of writings apps. I tried the obvious ones, but settled on Scrivener; I liked the way you could arrange the scenes and switch between views. Scrivener seemed the most intuitive of the programmes I tried.
I took a day of holiday, drank two bottles of red wine – that’s writers are supposed to do, right? – then I planned out every scene with a title and a one or two sentence description. This process was as frustrating as it was rewarding. Some scenes felt like filler, some anti-climactic, some simply didn’t fit.
At the end of the day I was drunk and exhausted. I saved down my scene list and went to bed, disheartened, room spinning. My plan was, quite frankly, terrible.
The next morning, I couldn’t even face getting dressed, let alone taking a look at my disastrous attempt at a plan.
I had failed.
But something odd happened over the following week – the characters and scenes I had created started to invade my conscious and subconscious mind. It was as though by thinking about them and committing them to paper Scrivener, they had taken on some sort of life.
So I rejigged my scenes, added and removed characters, and by the end of the week I had a beginning, a middle and an end I was happy with. Turns out planning a novel is not the sort of thing I can do over a single day, pissed. This is serious business. Time consuming.
It is wonderfully cathartic about vomiting a series of rough ideas from your brain and eventually rearranging them into something coherent. Perhaps my plan wasn’t so bad after all.