Today, after a fruitless day yesterday where I wrote myself into a dark hole, (including some inappropriate sex scenes that took me nowhere except to consider making an appointment with a therapist) I sat down with my good old friends from the eighties. Yep. I got out the index cards.
I don’t know why I need cardboard real-life index cards when I have the wonderful Scrivener, which duplicates the process, but virtually. In fact, I then always go on to transcribe the scenes onto the Scrivener corkboard.
But there’s something about filling a floor full of little pink, blue and green rectangles that you can shuffle about that makes the tenuous act of writing so much more tangible.
When I devised plays with actors, the last day of the fourth week was what we called playschool, where all the impro we had done was broken down into scenes, written onto bits of colour coded paper, stickered for dynamics/character/plot development, then, after a day of wrangling and discussion, pritt-stuck down onto A0 pieces of card, which I then carted to and from rehearsal, using as a template for script development until we opened. I once made the mistake of telling a journalist about the process, and was mercilessly ribbed for it in print (sorry I can’t link to it as it was mercifully written before the internet was a glimmer in Tim Berners-Lee’s eye).
However, this process of reducing material to essence and ordering it always worked for us, and still does for me as I write now, unencumbered by actors.
By the end of the session this morning I had a structure for the last part of my novel that worked – and I could use most of what I had already written, but chopped up and moved around. I had to remove some of the nasty sex, but then I had political qualms about that anyway. I’ll save that up for my porn book.
Anyway, I remembered as I did this, that I have done the exact same thing for the end of the three novels I have written to date. I think, if you have spent 100,000 words or so, laying down all sorts of threads, the temptation is to just whirl about with them till you reach the end point with a tangled, messy ball.
To reach the end elegantly actually requires a little finesse.Which, by the way, my deleted sex scenes respectively neither did nor had.