Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Random McPsycho and other weird things from the world of story preparation

  • conversations with characters and/or my necromusenomancer
  • staying up till midnight to see what song plays while my media player is on random
  • panicking
  • calling a character Random McPsycho
  • NOT writing up a blow-by-blow description of the plot
  • WriMo addiction

This week's WriYe Blogging Circle post topic is "The Weird Things You Do When You Plot". At first I looked at that and went blank, as you do when you're faced with an unexpected blog question. Then I went off to write for a while and now that I'm back here I realise that I probably do a lot of weird things. Observe the list above, for example.

So, how do I prepare for writing a new first draft? Warning: alarmingly long numbered list ahead:
  1. Realise that there's only X days until the next WriMo I'm planning on doing. X is usually somewhere between 0 and 3, but may occasionally get as high as 5.
  2. Stay up until midnight on the first night of planning and get a copy of the lyrics of the first song to play after 0:00.
  3. Get back to finishing the previous story. When that's done...
  4. Realise that X is now an even smaller number than before and I still have no idea what I'm doing.
  5. Go on what I call a 'wander down the psycho path', which is basically a written conversation between myself and my muse. They get freaky, but by the time I've spent a while on that I usually have a couple of characters and a setup. Some of the characters have names like Random McPsycho, Annoyling or Smartybum Heroboy, but at least they exist. During this I usually come up with my wordcount goal and how long I think it's going to take to finish the story.
  6. Write up a nice version of the setup and characters I created in step 5. This includes hitting the baby names book and a few web searches to name the characters I've thought up.
  7. Panic.
  8. Figure out a rough sketch of the opening scene and make a note of that as well. That's the only scene that ever gets planned in advance unless I've got particularly noisy characters and I've already written some snippets.
  9. Play with spreadsheets, image editors and random software for a while.
  10. At midnight on the first of the month, start writing.

Okay so it was only ten numbered points. Now for an example of a ramble down the psycho path:
Scott the necromusenomancer: Hi there.

Siana: Hi, Mr Cute Font. (Note: I make Scott write in Moonstar when I'm doing this, which would have been awkward to do on a blog. Therefore that comment about fonts is just plain weird.)

Scott: Do I have to use this font? It's weird, freaky, disturbing and seems to make you come up with all kinds of odd reactions.

Siana: Hey, you're talking to the person who just spent most of the day stuffing around with project management software to try and keep myself organised. I deserve some cuteness.

Scott: That's why you've got me.

Siana: Right... I have a strange urge to back away slowly. Just put up with the font and let's talk about FebNoWriMo, all right?

Scott: Yeah, okay. I'm kinda scaring myself too. So what about FebNo, anyway?

Siana: Well, I've got two options - the pirates and Toby. I have absolutely no idea what should happen in either of them, so this is Siana Blackwood feeling a crisis of confidence about starting any new projects at all.

Scott: You can't be serious.

Siana: Oh, can't I?

Scott: Not very often, no. See, you're laughing right now.

Siana: This isn't helping.

Scott: Well, you really do know what happens at the start of both stories.

Siana: Do I?

Scott: Yeah. I'll prove it - where does the pirate story start?

... and so on. One of the things about that snippet is that it probably proves I like thinking as I write, which is why I'm still happy to write a draft without actually plotting in advance. Writing the first draft is a journey of discovery at breakneck pace, where the characters dance out of control and I type like hell to try to get enough of it down that I'll be able to figure out what was really happening later.

So anyway... random songs, freaky placeholder names, dancing down the psycho path and coming up with a decent setup but never actually plotting in advance. Then I leap headfirst into the next available WriMo and go for it.

(By the way, that would be FebNoWriMo.)

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