Match Fit for Writing

As I wrote this, the World Cup was about to start in Brazil. At the same time I had been participating in a creative writing course which urged, like all such it seems to me, that one should practice writing as much as possible or at least during the time one isn’t reading avidly. Writing reviews of other authors work, developing characters, describing settings with interesting detail all being advocated.

This reminds me of the football training ground (or the equivalent facility for any sport); every professional knows you can train and train as much as you like but until you get on that competitive pitch you aren’t going to get match fit.

In writing you must get stuck in to that novel, short story or poem to become match fit. Too much ‘training’ of the above type doesn’t help you become match fit for writing—the only thing that does, is the actual writing of that actual piece of creation you have been cooking up for some while. As Michael Frayn once remarked on BBC Radio 4. ‘Just do it!’

It doesn’t matter that you write a trashy chapter in the middle of purple prose; unlike a footballer you can always go back and edit this below par period of play, so ‘Just do it!’

While I was editing my first novel I started writing my second novel, I think this kept me match fit and I intend to repeat the exercise when the time is right.

Adding this at the end of February I note that having had a struggle to keep writing during the dull grey days of winter I’m not match fit and finding it hard to get revved back up.

When the Plot goes wrong…

What do you do when the plot goes wrong?

It’s a bit like when cream splits, the plot doesn’t thicken. This recently happened to me; our plots fly by the seat of my pants and one of them came tumbling down three-quarters through the first draft. Let me explain, one of the characters was biographical, they really had existed and we began to become uncomfortable, the way the plot was going, that I could end up libelling or misrepresenting a real person and really upsetting, unnecessarily, relatives of the real person. Is this important? Well I think so, we are not engaged in writing a biography of someone in which any opinions or events expressed carry (it is to be hoped) the weight of evidence, in which case, fair game. This is a piece of fiction, a piece of make-believe, solely an invention. So what do you do?

Firstly, we analysed the situation and decided that to leave the biographical and named character in under the present situation was unfair and unethical. To leave them in but to play them down would render the plot’s structure and surprises innocuous. Was there another route?

We found one, it means a major rewrite of parts in order to render the same character as a child of fiction, with a new name, occupation, history, relatives and most importantly  a reason to exist. It was quite a wrench to come to this conclusion and we delayed longer than we should. We have lost valuable time which I doubt we can make up but at least we should be happier with the result. If you end up with this type of problem I recommend grasping the nettle early on, the quicker you do, the quicker you will find the dock leaves!