Quite some time ago I began mapping out the plot of Lunatics, breaking up the work into six major sections, and trying identity key plot developments that I hoped would unfold in these chapters.
Mostly my chapters are quite short which is probably the one and only way in which my work resembles that of Jane Austen’s.
After each day of writing, I look over my ‘master plot outline’ to see where there are holes, where there are parts of the story I still need to tell or, more often than not, where there are sections to write that I have been purposely avoiding——the parts that seem just too difficult.
Gradually, the outline begins to fill. Slowly it comes into better focus. Sometimes I discover there’s something which needs telling that, till this moment, I had not even considered. I begin to get a sense of characters who have been under-represented, who need more of a voice. And sometimes, I even come to understand that some of my best ideas are no longer be relevant to the direction the story has taken. (I strongly suspect any future editor will have much to say about this phenomenon!)
After doing my stint of literary navel-gazing each evening, I usually commit to a particular little chapter I will try to tackle the next morning. (I do most of my initial writing in the morning, some editing later in the evening. Almost nothing useful gets done in the afternoon.)
Then I begin to let ideas swim around in my head. Often it’s no more than an opening line, or a picture of where the scene might begin. Sometimes I have a notion of how the chapter might start and end but the middle is generally quite nebulous and unknown.
As I get into bed in the evening, I let those initial ideas slosh back and forth in my head, trying hard not to over-plan, rather to let them simply ferment overnight.
Then, before you know it, the next morning has arrived. I sit at my keyboard. Generally I will re-read the chapter that precedes the one I’m about to write, sometimes also the one I think will follow it.
Finally it is time to type the first sentence…
It was a dark and stormy night…
Here I generally say a quick prayer of gratitude for word processors, knowing how hopeless it would all be if I had to depend on pen and paper and my nearly illegible handwriting.
I bow to you, Jane Austen.