Creating Layers in Fiction

Last week I blogged about creating word pictures – which is quite a challenge for fiction writers. I’ve been working on my children’s story and some interesting thoughts about the way I write have occurred to me so I thought I would pass them on. I had a touch of the dreaded writers’ block this week and couldn’t think of what to write next. There I was – literally staring at a blank screen. Frustrating. It’s not something that happens to me often but I had to find my own way around it. I remembered the advice I had often been given to just write anything to get the muse going again.

I had a rough idea of where the story was going – having done a plot plan, with a list of scenes but very basic.

Then I just wrote….and wrote…trying not to think too much about it. I told myself it didn’t matter yet about the quality. I kept asking the same question: what happens next- then answering this question with the first words that came into my head. This first draft was simply filling in the blank space (on my screen) with a very basic structure. It felt similar to drawing in the first outlines of a picture – before painting it (I do paint).

Having got my outline, I then checked that the scenes of this troublesome chapter were in the right order, realising that for me, sequence has to be the first stage of creating meaning through writing. Once the sequence was in place – further details followed. I was able to add colour and characterisation easily because my basic shape was there and the writing was then flowing. Working from words already there is far easier than staring at the blank page. Ideas tend to mushroom once you have something tangible to start with. This second layer felt a bit like painting a wash or loose background of colour onto my picture. In writing terms – adding further depth and dimension to my basic shape.

The third layer involved looking more carefully, while asking important questions about the details within my word picture? Does my vocabulary reflect my main character’s voice (in this case – an eight year old)? Are my sentences interesting and varied? Have I created the right mood and atmosphere? More tone and shade on my picture?

So here I am – almost at the end of my first draft. I tackled writers block! Well done me! But now I do have a problem of word count. It’s far too long for the age group. My next edit – searching for redundant phrases or rewriting sentences in order to lose about thirty per cent. These initial layers are only the drafting stage. There’s all the polishing stage to go through yet. Wish me luck! No-one ever said that writing was easy. I’m still aiming for the fireworks!

PS. My NANOWRIMO target? Way behind.

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