During my time writing Frienemy I discovered some vital things that I really think I should’ve known before I first put finger to keyboard all those many, many moons ago, but isn’t that the glory of hindsight? Such a wonderful isle…
So in the spirit of goodwill, and since I love to talk, I thought I’d share with you all what I’ve learnt — some of it (most of it) you’ll probably already know, but if I can free up for you a lesson learnt hard then a much better lesson can be learnt the hard way.
01 – Flex your fingers & write
Start at word one, or wherever the words start to flow, and just go for it — don’t be censored for fear of offending the norm and don’t be afraid to play with English, I hear it likes it rough…
02 – Capture the spirit of the tale
Feed the idea with unimpeded thought — the franker the better — and discover the story’s true spirit even if it means delving into the depths you don’t want to explore, you’ll be awarded in the end for your bravery! It might sound like a cliché, but there it is — truth.
03 – Pendulum that plan
Cement the plan with facts and then leave everything else to sway in the wind. You can both under-plan and over-plan, the latter I’ve found a particular nuisance because it’s killed a tale, the former can be salvaged. Leave a little mystery for yourself — there is far more enjoyment to be had in discovery than in repeating only what you already know. Key dates and events, descriptions and other details quite vital, I now note centrally and constantly update, everything else I keep track of as I head towards my goal.
04 – Sod ‘format’
There’ll be plenty of time to format your manuscript once your manuscript is done and dusted. Currently, I’ve settled on some font called Khmer for the idea draft of my series’ opening novella (and plan) — it pleases my eyes and it pleases the words, and Times New Roman offends them.
05 – Jot it down, rush around, or lose it
Memories, such as mine, are fickle at the best of times — a note app, a pen and pad, a dictating machine thingee, are all well and good, but they will never be at hand when you need them. Those little sparks of inspiration — that sentence that captures that twist perfectly — prefer to strike when your pants are down, and why not? It’s the best time. Mourn the great thought — try and salvage it (and fail) — and then get over it, but always remember to celebrate those times when you do remember the thought, it very rarely happens…
06 – Meet your characters & invite them in
Introduce yourself and get to know them — get used to the truth that these people are real. I Excel me their basic information & key characteristics, but now I also Word me up their backstory — from birth to now, what have they done with their lives? — because I’ve discovered that the better you know your characters the easier they are to write.
07 – Relinquish control
Nope, you’re not the boss — you may have thought up the story but now you’re its flunkey. The story and its characters will dictate to you, and it’ll be an uphill battle to get them to do something they don’t want to do. Be prepared to ditch a lot — sometimes between drafts, or maybe even within a couple of thousand words, they’ll all change their minds and you’ll have to rewrite great swathes of text. My advice, get used to it — with every rewrite, in theory, things will improve…
08 – Limit italics
The stress on a word, I’ve been told, will most usually be portrayed by its sentence and surrounding words rather than by its italic, making the use of italics to stress things sometimes a little pointless. More importantly, though, and to save on future annoyance, make things italic only when needed. Personally, I love a good italic — I used to italic up everything whilst writing Frienemy, but then I got fed up of having to change this to this so I cleared the whole document and will now only use them when the urge in me to italic something up is just too great to resist…
09 – Enjoy the ride
Far above 1 to 8, enjoy all the twists and turns, the joys and turmoils, and all those weeks of hard slog ahead of you — it is a glorious ride (in hindsight)! Remember, though, you don’t ever need to suffer it! Take a holiday — you don’t need to go anywhere, just don’t look at it for a week or two. When times get tough, let your story and its characters stew in the dog house because sometimes they just need a little time out to decide what’s up, and then voice what’s up, before you all can reach a compromise and move on…