When You Have to Rearrange Your Story

I’ve been writing the second part of a fantasy trilogy. None of it’s published at this point, but for the last few weeks it’s been hard going.

Partly because during the whole Christmas and New Year period there’s been an awful lot of stuff going on, and partly because although I know exactly where this story is going, the route to the end point hasn’t been all that clear.

I’m the kind of writer who knows where they’re starting, knows where they’re ending, and then starts to write. I usually have a pretty good idea about what needs to happen on the way – the turning points of the plot and the story, and what big reveals need to happen and when.

Generally I don’t write an outline, but just let the whole thing percolate away inside my head. Some writers might call that undisciplined, but it’s the way that it works for me. I have tried outlining but even when I write an outline, what I produce in the long run is usually quite different to what I planned.

Over the last few years, one of the most important things I’ve learnt about writing is that you really should just write. I’m a member of quite a number of Facebook writing groups, and I often hear others talking about how they’ve got this great outline/idea/character/beginning/whatever, but they haven’t actually finished writing anything. And they’ve been doing it for years.

It always reminds me that instead of thinking about writing, talking about writing, or contemplating writing, I should actually be doing the writing. Even if what I actually write is absolute rubbish, at least I have words on a page.

So, back to the fantasy story. I finished the first book a while back, and I’m pretty happy with it. Normally, I automatically fall into writing Science Fiction (rather light and space opera-isa stuff), but after a writing group prompt of ‘purple,’ I wrote 500 words of what turned out to be the beginning of a fantasy trilogy.

I have the overall story in my head, but after successfully concluding the first one, I began to plow through the second. I began well, but over the course of the year, a combination of busyness and other stuff (some of which you can read about on this blog) got in the way of me putting in enough uninterrupted time. And then I sort of got stuck. Not completely stuck, but continuing to write, but knowing that the story wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do.

Then I had the epiphany. Not in the shower this time, or at a coffee shop, but while exercising. I had the events in the wrong order!

So yesterday, I sat down and started reorganising the plot. I had to slash three thousand rather nice words, which I copied and stuck in another document and stashed on my hard drive. This is always painful, but I felt much better after doing it. Then I reorganised what needed to happen where.

This is where using a writing program like Scrivener is rather helpful. I began by simply moving the folders one by one, and re-writing each chapter as I moved it, to reorganise the narrative and ensure continuity. Rather than having to juggle documents, which is what I used to do, (one document for each chapter to avoid massive files), I just juggled it all around inside the one program.

As I began to re-write, all the bits began to fall into place, so that once I’ve done the final tweaks, I can get on with writing the part of the story where it all ties together in a combination of betrayal, disaster and fast paced action where my characters (and eventual readers) are (hopefully) pushed right to the edge.

The relief that it’s all back on track is rather exhilarating. I’d been thinking about what wasn’t going right for quite a while, and now it feels as if I’m back on my usual writing roll. It won’t be perfect when I finish the first draft of course, but it’ll be enough so that I can complete the first write feeling comfortable, and be ready to pop it away for a month or so’s rest so that then I can start editing it properly.

I’ll probably return to another story while that one’s resting, and sort out its technical issues. It’s a science fiction spaceship based story that I’ve been fiddling with for a while. I needed to do a bit of genetics research before I went much further with that one. (Thank you eldest child!)

So, here I am, blogging, feeling refreshed and ready to get in more productive hours of writing. Yesterday I wrote from 1pm-9pm with only a brief break for dinner. The hours flew. 🙂

On another note – I’ve just finished Gemina, the second book in the Illuminae Files series, by Amie Kaufmann and Jay Kristoff. Seriously good book. Seriously good series. If you haven’t read these yet, do yourself a favour and pick them up! And having a reading break has also refuelled my own creativity: Note to self – don’t write to the exclusion of reading!



2 thoughts on “When You Have to Rearrange Your Story

  1. I’m going to have to agree on that last part! Whenever I read, I feel the need to go write my own stuff. Maybe it’s guilt? I always think: “[insert author name] finished their book, why can’t I?”

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