Strike That, Reverse It!

I’ve decided that it’s utterly pointless to make plans. At least, when it comes to writing novels. Things never work out how you expect and sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to have a rough idea of the direction I’m heading. I am definitely not a pantser. I couldn’t just sit down at my desk, switch on my computer and start typing, hoping that divine inspiration will guide me to writing something that makes at least some kind of sense. I would panic at the very thought. I have to have an outline and, what I’ve discovered recently is that, I like to have a scene by scene plan. I like being able to make a list of the crucial scenes and tick them off as I complete them, which sounds a bit mechanical but really isn’t. I only write a couple of lines stating the main purpose of the scene and then let my imagination take over, but it’s comforting knowing that I have a planned route to follow, even if I may meander off course occasionally, stop to look at some things that weren’t on the map, maybe take a detour, make a loop, come back to the place I was supposed to be after exploring other options first. You get my drift.

That’s all fair enough, but what happens when you suddenly realise that the entire book you’re working on is the wrong one?

Let me explain. I’m writing a series of four novels, and I’m currently working on book three. I’ve had problems with this book from the start and had to have a very deep and meaningful chat with my two main characters to make any progress at all. Eventually, I figured I understood them a lot better and set to work. The scene plan was written, I was steaming through their story, things were looking good. And yet…

No matter how I tried, I couldn’t shift the feeling that something was wrong. It occurred to me that I was having trouble with another character. He’d been in my plan since day one. I mean, he was there in the brief outline I’d made for this novel way back in 2011 and so I couldn’t figure out why he suddenly didn’t seem to fit. It slowly dawned on me, after much muttering to myself as I wandered round the house scaring the dog, that, as I’d now written two complete novels which didn’t feature him, things had moved on without him. The part I’d thought he would play no longer worked. The character whose life he was supposed to mess around with had changed. He wasn’t needed.

It was quite a blow because he’s always been there at the back of my mind. I always felt that, “cometh the hour, cometh the man,” but it seems his hour has passed and he missed it. Oh well, on your bike sunshine. You’re fired. I realised that, despite my best efforts, things had changed so I cut him. Gosh I’m getting quite ruthless!

That left me with a dilemma. His role in book three was huge, so what to do now? It didn’t take me long to figure out the direction the novel should go. I had another major character waiting in the wings, ready to make a – well, sort of comeback – except that they’ve never actually physically appeared in the book before. But their arrival will really shake things up a bit and makes it a lot more exciting.

Only, well, that messed around with the whole timeline, and it wasn’t long before I was pacing up and down again, making frequent visits to the fridge and kettle, and talking to myself while my poor dog shrank away from me as if fearing for my sanity as I tried to decide what to do for the best. I decided there was no hope and thought I’d leave it for another day. I made a cup of tea (you can’t go wrong with a nice cuppa) and settled down to watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It’s one of my favourite films. I just love Gene Wilder and I’m always quoting his character. I slurped my tea and lost myself in the wonders of chocolate rivers, everlasting gobstoppers and tasty wallpaper.

And then it hit me! As Willy Wonka ordered, “Strike that! Reverse it,” I had an epiphany. Of course! Make book three book four and make book four book three and everything suddenly fell into place. The timeline corrected itself, it gave me extra time to build up a storyline that’s been going on in the background of the whole series, and it meant I had a whole new hero and heroine to work with. Brilliant.

So now I’m making notes, coming up with a scene by scene plan and am eager to start the first draft of what will – almost definitely – be the third Kearton Bay book. At least, that’s what’s happening today. No more planning, remember?

Whatever you’re planning, have a great week xx

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