Posts Tagged ‘plot’

The time for delaying tactics is over. I need to write something. Anything. Especially anything longer than a haiku! Just to get back into the swing.

So here are nearly 500 words of a possible novel for middle grade. Nothing to write home about (excuse the pun) but until I see what I’ve written, I usually don’t know exactly what I wanted to write! And clearly this won’t be right for today’s middle grade children (at least if you want a publisher), but then again, I do know some kids who would lap up a mystery novel just fine. Which is what this beginning has in mind.

Anyway, I don’t do funny very well, I don’t do bottom humour, and I don’t do – oh, I don’t know, clever stuff. So into the bin with it. But do have a read first 🙂 All writing needs a reader!

For the zillionth time that afternoon, Oriel leaned out of the hotel’s attic window and stared down into Chatfield’s medieval cobbled square. Her eyes scanned the sunlit groups of shoppers from right to left, as if trying to find a hidden thimble. Then she stiffened and caught her breath sharply.

That’s him, I bet, she thought. Young and alone, with a leather suitcase, and foreign-looking. Definitely Josef Ahlenburg, our first guest… And in an awful hurry to reach us.

The boy in question looked about fourteen or fifteen, a few years older than Oriel, and he was sprinting – not like you sprint when you’re late for tea (which he nearly was) but as if training for his school football team. He was running a short way and then stopping, running and stopping again, as he came down the final stretch of road that led into the square. Every time he paused, he turned to glance warily over his shoulder at the lingering groups of Saturday shoppers. Then he darted past another group and looked round again. She wouldn’t have been surprised to see him dribbling a football, as if wondering who to pass it to.

Who was he trying to avoid?

She was slightly alarmed. Josef Ahlenburg couldn’t be trying to escape anyone. He wouldn’t know anyone yet, let alone have enemies. He was coming to England to take part in an international music course at the Grange.

Oriel stared, mesmerised, shading her eyes from the sun that streaked in from the south-west. It was still high above the beech trees flanking the park on one side of the square.

The boy paused again. Looked around, this time scanning the street higher up. Maybe he was searching for the Red Tree sign that hung from its black metal bracket outside the hotel windows two floors below Oriel.

Suddenly, he gazed straight up at her, as if he might have seen her. Oriel waved frantically to attract his attention.

She thought he nodded briefly before setting off again. But he still walked zig-zag around the cobbled pavements, as if his feet simply refused to go directly to the hotel.

Oriel frowned. She was sure this was Josef – the violin he carried was a dead giveaway, now that she noticed it. He wore a navy blue blazer, white shirt and grey trousers, which must be his school uniform. But he didn’t look at all like the posh boy she’d imagined, knowing his mother was a German countess. That must absolutely be the most awful thing to have to put up with – no eating in bed, no talking with your mouth full, no leaving the house without a bodyguard…

And then she remembered her father. Maybe being posh wasn’t the worst thing to have to survive.

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Outline omission, oh dear

Posted: December 20, 2010 in process
Tags: , ,

Would you take the car out without knowing where you were heading and how to get there?

I thought not. In fact, so many people use Sat Navs these days that I think my point is proven without asking. We all do better if we know where we’re going.

How does this relate to writing?

Well, I’ve been studying outlining again recently. It’s a really good tool for making sure the story has a beginning, middle and end, and that the story will also have an arc that climbs securely to the major climax before climbing down to the startling dénouement (I wish).

The program I use both to outline and to draft, edit and compile my writing is Scrivener. I’ll write more about that software soon, but seeing as how it’s just been released in beta form for Windows too (I use a Mac), do pop over to Literature and Latte if you’d like to get in on the act sooner.

Back to outlining. To me, this means compiling a list of discrete scenes that can be put in order and that, between them, tell the story of the plot. Then all I have to do is write it up. I can always adjust things as I go, of course, but the outline is there as a guide and as a surety against the novel being rubbish when I get to the words The End.

Anyway, I’m half way through my new novel for young people of 10 to 12, and I just want to confess that, for once, I didn’t complete the outline before I started. So here I sit, with a disjuncture between the place where things start getting really bad and the last few scenes where I know what will happen. A few thousand words with no outline… oh dear.

So basically, what I’m doing now is what I should have done before – filling in the missing scenes in outline form. It’s like being kept behind after school to do one’s homework properly.

It’s embarrassing, and even annoying, but since it’s so cold outside, it’s no real hardship to snuggle under a blanket with my MacBook Air and sort it all out. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, here’s a great post by Margaret McGaffey Fisk on planning your novel, which includes outlining advice. Pop over and have a read if you’re interested.