So, I’ve been reading On Writing again. Written by whom, you ask? Stephen King, of course! I know: surprise, surprise! Am I becoming rather predictable? Perhaps. But I have gleaned more about writing from this book than I have done in years of self-teaching. I have no formal writing training (albeit a rather failed attempt at English and Creative Writing at University) under my belt, so I really have to take every bit of learning as it comes. This means a hell of a lot of reading (I really try to whenever I can!) and almost as much writing (ditto!). What have I learned today on my train ride? That my instinct not to plot-and-plan is, luckily, a good thing.
A key tool for any aspiring writer, whether you love Stephen King or loathe him.
King states that there is a clear differentiation between story and plot, which I didn’t understand at first. It soon became clear that the story is the organic development of events as and when they happen, whereas plot is a predetermined path that is mapped out way in advance. I quickly realised that I’m a person who is driven much more by story than plot.
I’ve never been too good at mapping things out and making copious character notes and backstories. My writing develops best when I’m letting the words come out organically on the page – something that King also believes is a key technique in bringing characters to life as well. Does this develop perfection? No. Certainly not in my case, at least. I’m already aware that when I’m finished with Haunt I’m going to have to go through it and edit (whilst attempting to be magnanimous to myself for writing something so deeply flawed.
I’ve, yet again, been inspired today by a wonderful journey through the great county of Devon (South Devon, to be precise) along with my very dear friend Jennifer “Jennie” Bartle. We have been friends for 8, almost 9 years now, and she has been, without a shadow of a doubt, the person most interested in my writing. She often takes me on trips to photograph things that inspire me.
Rural Devon takes on a most magical atmosphere when you’re really out in it.
Today we visited some stunning reservoirs and took a little walk in nature. Even if my current project is not synonymous with nature, I would definitely say that my inspiration and motivation is. Something about being out in the fresh air (it doesn’t really matter what the weather is like, but a sunny hot day is a plus!) really opens up my mind. It just so happened that we stumbled upon a (doubtless haunted) pub that pretty much sums up everything that I look for in a quintessential countryside establishment.
The Teign House Inn. A simple countryside pub, or something much more sinister? Nope, definitely just a simple countryside pub.
Here, Jennie and I sought refuge (and something to quench our thirsts) and ended up talking about my novel in-the-works. I can’t help but thank her for listening to me drone on endlessly about characters, story, and nuances to my novel. It is actually thanks to her (and a sentence she happened upon saying to me) that I came up with the twist that lies in wait at the end of Haunt. I just have to figure out how to get there. If ever I try and imagine the kind of reader I want to enjoy my novel, Jennie would personify that reader. Do you want to see her?
This is how Jennie looks at me when I’ve told her about a development in the story that she finds unpleasant.
I’m going to leave this for tonight and focus on doing a bit of work on Haunt for an hour before bed. I haven’t done any writing so far this weekend and, frankly, I’m disgusted with myself. I’m going to transport myself (in my mind, of course) back to the Teign House Inn and remember what it was like to quench my thirst with a delicious large glass of coke. If anything is going to open me up to do a little bit of writing, that would be it.
Ahhh, that first refreshing sip. Bliss!