26th July 2013

Mapping out my latest novel

Trees and MoonThere’s always plenty of chat in the writerly world  about whether we should plot or plan, which works best, which we prefer, or whether we do a bit of both. One of the wonderful things about any creative pursuit though, is that we can do it exactly the way we want. I like to tackle each project in a different way, or, should I say, in the way that most suits it. I wouldn’t say that I disregard most rules of writing (I am a complete grammar pedant) but I think that rules about how we should write and on structure box a person in creatively, so I prefer to ignore them. Of course, this could be why I’ve had more rejections than published works *cough*,  but I guess that when it comes to it, being published is less important to me than the process. What matters is the enjoyment of it and the scope for experimentation. It’s always important to know the foundations and building blocks of writing, but I think you find your voice by knocking a few of those down.

The other day, I saw this wee thing about the six types of writer:

Six types of writer

I knew straight away that I was ‘The Space Cadet’ – yep, that’s me. If I ever make a lot of money out of this writing malarkey it’ll be nothing short of a minor miracle, and will be a complete and utter fluke! I am, like The Space Cadet, someone whose head is full of daydreams that I think could potentially be entertaining to others.

With my current Work in Progress I have taken, yet again, a different approach to anything else I’ve written.  To begin, two scenes came to me as incredibly vivid and visual dreams, dreamt two months apart. One of these has formed the setting and part of Chapter One, the other has formed the beginning and also the climax of the novel.  This isn’t unusual for me to dream something which is clearly a story, and one that I need to tell.  The same thing happened with Buttercup Magic: A Mystery for Megan. Sometimes I will just run with a story from this point and see where it goes – when this happens though I find I have to re-draft over and over and the ravelling and unravelling is harder.  For one novel, I used locations and real people to inspire each chapter, for another I plotted in detail before starting the writing proper (see plot planner blog post here).

25.7.13 Mapping H of DIt’s wonderful to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t. I don’t have any preconceived ideas. By reading, by chance, a blog post about Pinterest, I began to collect a whole load of visual images. I then selected those which resonated with the dreams and ideas in my head and used these to inspire incidents, characters and action points within the story. At this point, it seemed to make sense to order these as a map – not a map of another world as such, but a map of the characters’ journey.  This has appealed to me on many levels – it’s a sort of structure, but any other ideas can branch off and be added at any point. It’s incredibly visual. It’s allowed me to think ahead to the climax and the resolution, which has given me an entrance into a second book, and it’s allowed me to do colouring in stuff with coloured pencils (whoopee!)

The other wonderful thing about this is that I have always wanted to write a book that required a map. Ever since reading The Lord of the Rings (I confess, this wasn’t until my 20s) I have wanted to write a book with the same breadth and otherworldliness, a book that needed a map! I had always believed I wasn’t capable of this, that I wouldn’t know where to start, that I didn’t have enough ideas. Twenty years later, I appear to have stumbled upon something quite by chance.

I am only 4,600 words in (and a map… don’t forget the map… and a whole load of images… don’t forget those too… and a very important notebook full of ideas) but I am very excited about this book and am hoping that by the end of the August I will have a completed manuscript and that JRR Tolkien might give a wink of approval.

How do you approach your new WIP? Do you alter your approach according to the type of book you are writing?

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About Abi Burlingham

I write children's books and paint pictures inspired by nature, animals, trees etc, mostly in acrylics. I am a crisp addict.
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10 Responses to 26th July 2013

  1. Jenny Alexander says:

    Hi Abi – by the end of August suggests an impressive rate of progress! I usually know where a story starts and how it ends, but I prefer to work out the route as I go along. It often starts with a dream, but more usually a dream helps me find my way if I begin to feel lost.

  2. I have the Summer off, Jenny so am going to ‘knuckle down’ 😉 Dreams can provide the inspiration and help us get unstuck so often can’t they? And they add an originality to a story too.

  3. Jenny Alexander says:

    Enjoy! There’s nothing like a clear run of writing-time, is there? 🙂

  4. Impressed with your strategy Abi! Wishing you lots of success 🙂

  5. Aw, thanks, Carolyn 🙂 x

  6. He he, I have a map for the middle grade WIP…It’s so much fun creating a world from scratch, and I am now convinced it actually exists!

  7. Ha! I know what you mean, Lisa. I am sure that as I get further into mine I’ll be feeling the same!

  8. How I love a book with a map!!! So very cool. I too have always wanted to write one that required a map (and may add one to my mystery series, showing the small village where Maggie lives). Can’t wait to see yours. And after consulting your chart, I’m very sorry to announce that I have multiple-writer-personality-disorder (the dreaded MWPD) BUT you’ve given me an idea for a blog post, hope that’s okay 🙂

  9. Hahaha! Love it! Glad I’ve provided you with an idea for a blog post xo

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