Today is a milestone day for me. Well, the milestone itself technically came yesterday, but while the completion of a project might make you want to celebrate, it also sometimes makes you want to slump. I chose the latter, in as much as it’s possible to slump a few hours before waddling off to my Thursday evening Muay Thai class.
As usual, I digress. I’ll probably do so again in a moment.
I completed a full chapter-by-chapter plan for my first novel, currently entitled “Lucher,” yesterday afternoon. So ok, it’s a part of a project as opposed to the project itself, but there is a very good reason for this being a milestone for me that is perhaps greater than the completion of a piece of writing in and of itself: I never plan anything.
Beyond a swirling vortex of notes on paper, my computers at home and at work, my laptop and my BlackBerry, there is never anything resembling a structure on which to pin my ideas, an idea of where I’m going or how I’m going to get there. I’m a disorganised mess in many aspects of my life and it has served me very well, or at least it did up until the point where I had a family and decided that somehow, more was expected of me. This has rubbed off on me from my wife who is super organised, makes lists, keeps large sections of my brain in her diary and generally is the scaffolding that holds our family together. I won’t gush but she’s brilliant and, thankfully, quite tolerant of my slightly erratic nature. Very fond of my wife. I’ll probably name the planet after her once I take over.
It’s not all bad though; it isn’t that I don’t get things done it’s just that I have a very direct approach to things in general. Life’s planners are often highly valued and rightly so, as they make the world go around and keep the buses running on time (har-de-har-har) and that is a strength that my wife has in abundance. I, on the other hand, have an entirely different skill set. If you want to organise a music festival (for example), Kat would find a way. She would remember to book the porta-loos, would get estimates on the numbers expected and how many cars to prepare for and would have ample first aiders on hand. All the required permits and licensing would be dealt with and for every eventuality she would have a contingency, within reason, that would make the whole thing a success. She’d also have organised a clean up crew and would leave the place as she found it, with everyone having been paid and having fully enjoyed themselves.
But what if aliens invaded during Iron Maiden’s encore?
That’s where people like me come in. I would probably make a reasonable go at the organisation if I put my mind to it, but it would cause a major headache for me as it goes against my nature. Kat would have it all running smoothly until the first mothership loomed overhead, and then she would phone me. I’m the sort of person you drop into the centre of unmitigated chaos and then stand back and let them get on with it. I think on my feet, deciding on solutions and dishing out tasks to other people and shooting from the hip, grabbing anarchy by its dreadlocked testicles and pounding it with sheer determination until it gives up and does as it’s bloody told.
When things go wrong, I’m your man. When you want to plan something so it probably won’t go wrong, Kat’s your lady, and between us there is nothing we can’t manage.
But, ever eager to improve myself, I thought I’d give this planning thing a go, and I have to admit that it has gone fairly well.
It isn’t the super-anal, well thought out and bullet-pointed sort of a plan that some other people seem to swear by, but it’s certainly a happy medium that will make writing this novel considerably easier for me. It’s very “stream of consciousness,” not a little disjointed and quite scrappy in places, but it undoubtedly plots the entire story from beginning to end with all of the appropriate stops, character points and even some “witty” dialogue options inserted along the way. It isn’t the sort of thing I would send to an editor who insisted upon seeing one (let’s hope I can avoid that for the time being) but it represents a point of personal and, hopefully, professional growth for me as a writer, and as a person.
This may be the last of these that I ever write but it might well also be the first of many. This could mark a failed experiment in altering my approach to my work or it might represent an epiphany that leads to a smoother, more productive creative process for me. I’m betting on the latter, and it has to be said that I have my wife’s example to thank for that.
While I’ve got you here…
Quick blog-plug for all-round good egg and Mslexia runner up Nichola Vincent-Abnett, who is celebrating her 100th blog post! She’s written a blog every day for the last 100 days and I think you may enjoy them.