A Dance too Far: my writing process

I finally released A Dance too Far. I say finally, I only started writing it at the beginning of November so actually from start to finish, it was the quickest book I’ve ever written but sometimes, particularly in the editing process, it doesn’t feel like that. I also experimented with writing this book in a slightly different way. I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I’m a slow writer.

What did I change? I tried the sprint method that I’d heard so many people talk about where you literally just make yourself write for short periods of 25-30 mins with a short break. The idea is that you don’t edit, you don’t think I’ll just check FB to see what’s going on, you don’t even pause to research or check what a character’s surname. To my surprise, I found I could do it. Were there more mistakes? Definitely. I had two side characters that had the same name which I didn’t pick up until just before I was about to send it to beta readers. I had irritating bits typed when I came to self edit like, find out the Russian for this, find surname, but it did make me write faster.

The other much more controversial thing I did for this book was to not plot. Not a single word. Most of my previous books I’ve either started off not plotting, and then plotted the second half, or briefly plotted most of the book before I started. The least plotted book before this one was A Temporary Situation, but even then, I remember jotting something down for the last couple of chapters.

Did it work? For this book. For me. Yes. Why? I discovered something about myself. If I plot, it’s down on paper and I don’t have to think about it, so if I don’t write the next day, it’s not a big deal. I also feel like it’s done. It’s plotted. I don’t have to think about it. It makes me lazy. With no plotting, I constantly had to think about different possibilities, and when I did have an idea, I was forced to get it down on paper before I forgot it. I keep saying paper when I mean laptop, but you know what I mean. This also kept me enthusiastic about writing. Am I saying I’m the world’s best plotter. God, no. I always see myself as a character-based writer where everything comes from the characters. I’ve already had reviews say the plot is quite basic or straightforward. Would it have been better if I’d sat down and plotted it all out? I can’t honestly say it would have been. We all have our different strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and I’m honest enough to hold my hands up and say that intricate plots is definitely not one of my strengths.

I actually read a blog post yesterday where the plotting vs no plotting argument was brought up, which is probably why this is in my head. Some of the posts were quite vitriolic on the idea of not plotting, but I guess it all comes down to what works for that writer, for that book. I have a Christmas story that I was planning to finish and release for Christmas 2018, that my plans changed on. Did I plot it? Yes. Am I really glad now that I did? Also, yes. Because it means that when I pick that story up again with a view to releasing it in Christmas 2019, I won’t have forgotten what’s meant to happen.

Anyway, I’ve rambled enough for one day. I’ll write another post, more about the characters in A Dance too Far, rather than the writing process another day.

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