(March 2 – 8)
Another relatively straightforward writing week, the highlight of which was finishing the current chapter of the [first draft of] the novel and moving onto the next one. I suspect I’ll follow the recent pattern: write at least half of the chapter to finalise where the story is going to go, then go back and re-edit the first bits before ploughing onto the end.
At this point I haven’t done any plotting for this chapter—at least on paper. It’s been coming together very nicely in my head, and just last week I saw how the specific theme of the chapter could work really well with its place in the novel as well as the plot/character developments that need to happen.
For a long while, this was set to be one of the more challenging chapters, but suddenly I’m pretty excited to get stuck in.
One good thing
My latest purchase from Audible has been A Little History of Philosophy, which is a great little run through the history of philosophy. I’ve been really enjoying it, and what I’ve learned from it so far is that most philosophers seem to be complete dicks.
One bad thing
One of my deficiencies as a writer is my sense of place. I often get far too into what my characters are saying, thinking and doing, and forget to tell my readers a little more about where they are. The result, at least from my experience of reading similarly thinly sketched writing, is that it’s hard for the reader to fully immerse themselves in the story; their imagination has to do extra work to figure out where they are, which can distract from the story itself.
While I don’t think I’ll ever be one to write rich, extensive paragraphs of descriptive prose, I do need to up my game a little. I often find that a few well sketched details are enough to convey a place, but I also (mostly from reading Hugh Howey’s work lately) can see how authoritative descriptive writing can really help settle the reader. If, as a reader, we can tell that the author really understands where we are then it, ironically, helps us to forget that there’s an author in the first place. As in movies, the best special effects / editing / music / etc are when you don’t notice them in the first place.
Now, I’m not too worried about all of this for my first drafts: those are simply there to get the story down, and the detail can be added later. But, at some point, I need to add enough layers that the reader can be comfortably placed in the story without having to stop and wonder where they are.
My best course for resolving this is to see what other writers do. However, I always want to try another option. In researching an earlier chapter of the novel I needed to check what a wartime New York bar would look like, so I started Googling photos.That gave me the visual reference I needed to add at least a little passing authenticity to that particular chapter. I reckon I could do this for other chapters when needed: find imagery that represents the scene I want to set and then, as a writing exercise, describe what I’m seeing in the photo. Hopefully this will me the background detail to add a little extra authenticity to my scene setting.