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Can a mere mortal do it too?

(30 Posts)
DeskOfMyOwn Thu 28-Apr-16 20:56:24

"I don’t write in sequence. I may have a dozen versions of a single scene."
This is Hilary Mantel. The quote I mean. Does anyone on here write like this? Not that I'm calling you mere mortals, only me.

It could be a glorious way for me to procrastinate (even more). But it could be worth a try.

MissBattleaxe Thu 28-Apr-16 21:56:51

If you feel an urge to write, then just write! This may sound like heresy but I didn;t like Wolf Hall.

Writer your own way and instead of worrying about whether it will be any good, just get it down on paper. You can always edit it later. Good luck and get stuck in!

ImperialBlether Thu 28-Apr-16 22:24:31

Everyone does it differently. Just sit down and write the bloody book, is my advice. You can faff around with it afterwards, but you can't edit a blank page.

GetAHaircutCarl Fri 29-Apr-16 07:07:55

IMVHO the great and successful writers often have many different ways of working.

King doesn't plan.
Zadie Smith reworks the opening for months to get the tone she's looking for.
Mantel writes out of sequence.

However, for those who have yet to actually write a book, the brst way seems to be a methodical approach.

Write the scene and move on to the next.

There are far more unfinished books in the world than there are great ones written in unusual ways.

Kai1977 Fri 29-Apr-16 10:05:45

I have written 30k words of a first draft. I started with a fairly detailed plan (on Scrivener) and whilst I have so far kept to it on the whole, once I started writing some characters grew bigger than I intended, others smaller and I wished I hadn't spent quite so long planning and just seen where things went (and I am by nature a planner in everything I do).

I can see the benefit of writing a scene in lots of different ways but for those of us with full time jobs and various other obligations it is probably an impossible luxury.

Just start writing and work out what is right for you. It takes as long as it takes.

Good luck!

Kai1977 Fri 29-Apr-16 10:07:24

Oh and I also thought I was the sort to write in sequence but the only way I could get to 30k was just writing what I fancied on a particular day. That is where a rough plan does come in handy.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Fri 29-Apr-16 13:32:48

Arthur Ransome wrote out of sequence but with a very detailed synopsis.
I couldn't do it for the early drafts because I need the forward motion of the story to carry me along, but whatever works for you.
Can see where Smith is coming from with the reworked opening - I did mine 15 times...

GetAHaircutCarl Fri 29-Apr-16 15:25:44

Reworking the opening can be a good way to decide upon tone, voice, structure.

I make those decisions beforehand but I can see merit in doing so in the job.

Gotta guard against endless rewrites though, searching for something intangible (confidence to carry on?).

Pedestriana Fri 29-Apr-16 15:36:19

Writing my first novel now. It spans 70 odd years and there are things that resonate across the years, so whilst writing those I tend to jump from era to era. I don't know about the final structure as I'm currently debating whether to split everything into two stories or keep as one.
I think I'll know more once the first draft is down but I have already rewritten two scenes from their first incarnations.

Having had to write some stuff academically for a few years I'm more comfortable writing out of sequence and then pulling things together at a later stage. For me, I find it allows me to concentrate my focus on themes and ideas.

LisaMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 29-Apr-16 15:39:34

I agree that you have to find your own way of doing things. And the most important thing is to get the words out of your head and onto the page - then either you (or a good editor - don't be afraid to get one of those long before you submit your manuscript) can edit it into 'perfection'. Sometimes good ideas can stop you working on less good sections, so just make sure you jot down all those random thoughts (a notebook with numbered pages where you can easily find each section/chapter) so you don't forget them. Often the best ideas are ones you stumble across when doing the washing up, so don't let those ones get away! And also don't be afraid of rejection - it's part of the territory. Even when people look underwhelmed when you tell them about your idea (or write to publishers) just have a stiff gin and send out a few more copies. If Edison had given up after 9,999 attempts we still wouldn't have the lightbulb!

WordGetsAround Fri 29-Apr-16 15:41:46

I also though wolf hall was terrible so not at all surprised to read this quote!

I think write as you would write - don't try and write like someone else!

GetAHaircutCarl Fri 29-Apr-16 15:44:16

Though the question of methodology is probably the second most common I find ( behind, where do you get your inspiration).

Writers who are struggling to get started or get finished look to more prolific authors and hope to find a way forward.

HarrietVane99 Fri 29-Apr-16 15:50:37

I don't write in sequence. I have a rough idea where I'm going when I start, then write the scenes or sequences that are clearest in my mind, then link it all up.

I also might have more than one version of a big scene, and edit the best bits together. Or sometimes the direction the story takes later means I have to go back and rewrite an earlier section. Or I might decide a big scene needs more drama and tension, and rewrite for that.

As PP have said, everyone has their own way of working, the main thing is to get something down on paper, or on screen.

Abraid2 Fri 29-Apr-16 15:55:23

I write some scenes out of order, but start the process with a synopsis, often quite a long outline, too. I don't stick to it, but it is a rough route map.

If I'm bored or stuck, I move on. If I feel inspired to write something out of sequence, I write that bit because I know my best work comes from when I am fired up and I don't want to waste the energy.

Often being stuck is a sign something hasn't quite been mulled over enough and isn't ready.

I have never admitted this to my new editor. grin

greenflame Fri 29-Apr-16 16:05:31

I don't write in sequence at all.

DeskOfMyOwn Fri 29-Apr-16 19:31:24

So many replies! Thank you for your very good advice, summed up as "Just sit down and write the bloody book, is my advice. You can faff around with it afterwards!" I've no place left to hide. But nice to hear how many different ways people do things, very helpful.

"Often the best ideas are ones you stumble across when doing the washing up" - Oh dear. My big mistake has been yelling at DCs to do it? Please don't tell them. When I get stuck, I'll get a few clean plates out and sink them in the suds. If anyone catches me it'll be just one more of Mum's weird habits.

No more procrastinating...

Seriously, I think it could be a good thing for me to do (writing scenes from other perspectives) but only AFTER I've finished a draft.


ok, ok, I'm going



MissBattleaxe Fri 29-Apr-16 19:52:01

As Imperial Blether said "You can't edit a blank page."

Madhairday Fri 29-Apr-16 20:54:53

Also love 'just write the bloody book' grin

I mainly write in sequence but I sometimes get a scene in my head and have to get it down - I have the energy for it there and then. I'm writing a trilogy atm and I've got a couple of scenes from the last book pinned down although I'm only writing the second. The scenes are there and have to be written or they just won't leave me alone - do you know what I mean? They pull at me until I do them some justice.

I have a plot synopsis but I do go off tangent sometime, characters end up doing things I didn't expect etc, and that's fine, it's all in the creative urge and often it's the best writing when it just flows like that smile

Pedestriana Fri 29-Apr-16 22:57:49

Desk - I am doing a FREE online course about writing fiction. Although much of it is stuff that I sort of do, there have been some really useful exercises and ideas. Happy to pass on the info if you want. It's about halfway through but fairly easy to catch up.
I've found it's kickstarted a few ideas and given me some other approaches when I've been stuck in a rut.

MissBattleaxe Mon 02-May-16 11:43:13

Sometimes it's worth writing even before you know all the twists and turns of the plot beforehand. Sometimes characters take on a life of their own and you can think "Oh, hang on, wouldn't it be good if. XYZ happens..?"

How are you getting on OP?

Cel982 Tue 03-May-16 22:29:28

I'm currently hopefully close to finishing my first novel. Not written in sequence at all - I started with a general idea and a rough plot, then wrote the three or four pivotal scenes that first came into my head. Then sat down and wrote a synopsis (although this has changed lots since I first drafted it). Then wrote whatever bit I was inspired about when I sat down at my computer, and cobbled it all together at the end.
It sounds very disorganised, but I always had a clear sense in my head of the story as a whole.

DeskOfMyOwn Fri 06-May-16 18:39:53

[Women are not supposed to apologise, I read this week, otherwise I would apologise for my silence]

Pedestriana: yes please - ruts have a fatal attraction so anything that might help is good. MadHair, Cel - and everyone who's pitched in with experiences and tips - thanks so much. I am in awe.

MissB: gulp, thank you for the follow-up kick/enquiry. How did you know it was needed? Rather than tell you why I have only just started, I'll say instead: I HAVE STARTED a brand new draft today, using an idea that has been in my head for ages. I didn't have time to start today, but I did, largely because I couldn't put off reporting back here any longer. So now it's every day, no excuses. Thank you!

GetAHaircutCarl Sat 07-May-16 08:25:21

I'll repeat what I've just said on another thread grin.

Try to write every day. The writing muscle needs exercise to stay strong.

Back in the day, before writing became my day job, I wrote my first novel in the cracks of the day. I was almsot tempted to thank my local soft play in the acknowledgements so much was written in there!!

CantFeelMyFace Sat 07-May-16 09:16:22

GetAHaircutCarl you've inspired me to start my new book this morning. I've written FIVE words already, WOO HOO!!

MissBattleaxe Sat 07-May-16 14:26:12

Desk- You're welcome. I'm glad you feel motivated. The main thing is: don't be afraid it might be rubbish or you'll never write a thing. Remember- nobody has to see it but you. It's like that saying "Dance like nobody's watching". That's when you do your best dancing.

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