Preparation, preparation, all is preparation

Posted on November 2, 2012


While working on my current novel-in-progress, I found myself struggling with a scene that I had thought I had in control. The words dried up.

This was frustrating but in working on the problem, I had an important realisation.

Some time back, I read Write Away by Elizabeth George. This sets out her approach to writing a novel and I thoroughly recommend it to all aspiring writers. One aspect that I found particularly useful was her use of step and running scenes in developing scenes within the novel.

Without going into all the details, the step process involves identifying everything that could happen in the scene. The running process means writing in detail about the scene, without dialogue. This not unlike some of the script writing steps that I have previously studied.

In looking at the step and runnign scene notes for this particular scene that was causing me trouble, I came to a realisation. The running scene in particular, had not covered everything I needed it to. I had not explored in enough detail to help me fully identify with not just what was happening but details about where it was happening. Consequently I was not picturing this enough in my mind while writing the actual scene.

A further realisation dawned on me.

Cricket is all the go in Australia every summer. I played for many years. I was mediocre at best but one thing I knew about my game was my need to prepare properly. If I trained hard, focusing on my game, I generally played better that Saturday. Even better when I engaged in a bit of meditative visualisation before the game. That preparation was essential.

While contemplating this failure in my running scene notes, the further realisation was that, at least for me, the running scene process is part of the preparation for writing the scene, just as training in the nets was preparation for playing cricket.

There is a school of thought which suggests two broad types of writers: gardeners and architects. The gardeners plant the seed of a story and let it grow through the writing process while the architects plan a lot more. Clearly I’m more of an architect than gardener, no matter how green my thumbs are (might be mould).

Posted in: Writing