Ticking over & the Tyranny of Story

Well, recovery is one thing, but the website is all recovered from the nasty hacking (that was my most unfun thing possibly forever and totally ruined my watching of Endeavour, not to mention a couple weeks afterwards) and I’ve been something of a naughty author not updating my blog very much. Alternately, I’ve been a very good writer because I have been writing.

The library book is ticking along. It is being, as books often are, its own animal though. For example last night, while I wrote 1200 words, I also ended up deleting 5,700 words that had been there before. Now, it improves the story (mainly because it goes in a different way to the thing laughingly referred to as my plot plan), and the flow is much better. Plus I now have more of an idea of where it is going. When a story veers off course, I find it is usually apparent fairly quickly.  The words dry up. The story doesn’t want to talk when it’s not being true to itself.

It’s sometimes difficult to explain how stories work in my head, much less to translate it on to paper. I often think that this is why authors are so gleeful when they get together. Here are people who understand. About the wily ways of narrative. About characters that refuse to tell you about themselves. About the ones who turn up at three in the morning, possibly with at least half a bottle of hard liquor in them judging by the way they natter on.

About the tyranny of the story.

By story I don’t just mean plot. I mean the entire package – plot, character, themes, motifs, references, those fiddly scenes that won’t come right – the whole kit and caboodle.

Because most authors I know – whether they work out intricate plots and character sheets in advance, or sit down with a blanks screen and an idea – find their lives caught up in the tyranny of story. And when the story isn’t doing what it wants to do, the story is like a teenager who has been grounded. The complete sulky, pouting, door slamming deal.

Story is what makes narrative sense. It is a whole entity of its own. And sometimes you need to backtrack, delete the wrong bits and rewrite others. Actually I never delete words. I move them off into another document, a sort of corral of ideas, descriptions, dialogue and scenes which may or may not get a second look if the story calls for them. I’ve ended up reusing things so often that I have a horror of actually deleting things altogether.

So there you go, a glimpse inside my madness. Now I have a documentary on illuminated manuscripts to watch. Not only is it pure libraryland geekdom, it’s also research for the library book. I love it when a plan comes together.

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