Monday, 18 March 2013

If you know exactly what you are going to do, what is...

If you know exactly what you are going to do, what is the point of doing it? - Picasso (I am quoting this froma what I heard in the movie Midnight in Paris- so could be slightly wrong- FYI - I loved that movie)

As you may well know we are currently in the middle of the Oxford Literary Festival. On saturday, in the rain, I traipsed over to the Sheldonian Theatre ( A beautiful building both inside and out) to hear a talk by Alexander McCall Smith. This author has been a great inspiration to me whilst conceiving the idea of The Chupplejeep Mysteries.

I have always been in awe of AMS but after hearing him speak I am even more so now. He seems like the nicest person ever, with time for everyone (which was perhaps the reason why the book signing queue at the end of his talk went on forever). He just comes across so social, friendly and funny (very approachable indeed). I should have expected him to be like this given how funny I find his detective series. The nice thing was that when he was talking about his characters and what they were going to get up to in novels he was laughing about it. If the author finds his characters funny then of course readers will.  And he is prolific! he said that writes 1000 words per hour and wait for it- he writes the finished product with very few revisions. If only I could write like that! Yes Marissa - keep dreaming!  He says that he taps into his subconscious. I need to learn about doing this- I assume the free writing exercise would help you with this (you know when you write what ever comes in to your mind even if it is gobbledygook for no less than five minutes)  And did you know AMS has sold over 20 million copies of The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency- the series has been translated into over 46 languages or something like that! Amazing.

Anyway I thought I would share AMS's fantasticness with you. I also had a quiet weekend to myself at home which was great I finished the skeleton copy of Under the Coconut Tree and I have started the first read through (because unlike AMS I have to revise at least 5 times until I get a decent draft and then I have to start the process again!). On the first read through I usually find huge glaring errors and pin point where the book is lacking- or if other characters are needed, some characters need more of a story etc. Normally its a quick once over and I make some hand written notes. This time I am going slower. I have found with book three that my writing is not as dreadful on the first draft than it normally is. perhaps I am improving or tapping further into my subconscious.

This is always an annoying yet satisfying section of editing. As it's the first read through - inspiration for the characters and what they do in the book is still coming to me. I am not yet bored to tears with the plot and I am confident that it will all work out in the end (that is the book being a finished product). Its' annoying because I want to be holding the finished manuscript and it's a pain when I have to weave new bits of the plot through the text!

Under The Coconut Tree is a slice of life book with a plot- a crime has been committed - but its more about the characters and location than the plot itself. On knowing this I need to ensure that the characters develop over books. They themselves have to make discoveries about themselves- they too have to go on a journey. It is also difficult because the last two books (especially The Bittersweet Vine have been plot driven)

I have given myself a deadline of the 30th April by which I should have a first draft readable copy that will go to Urmi and my mum for their initial comments (does the plot work? is it interesting... ? No point in editing it any further if the plot is no good and vast chunks of the plot need changing). After that its time to work on Living the Dream.

Every now and again with this book (as with the other two that I have written) I do get scared - what if my theme and plot for the book doesn't work. What if the characters are dull? I hate this feeling and sometimes it really does make me want to delete the document. Although now that I am on book three I have much more understanding of literary techniques. Will this cut down the amount of re-drafting that I have to do? I hope so. But the drafting and re-drafting, I think, is a process that you have to complete so that by the end of it you know the characters like your own family. Chupplejeep and Pankaj certainly are already like family for me and I have  only written the first sketchy draft! I wonder if it is because I have such a strong understanding of their personalities in my head - perhaps because I am Indian and I just know that type of characters they are. It's odd I am learning more about India and Goa through writing this series than I ever knew. Well I suppose I did know all this stuff it was just buried under all the other useless knowledge held in my mind. 

 I think this year is going to be pretty good in terms of writing. With The Bittersweet being taken on by a publisher I can sit on that for a while and just do what I am told in regards to actually getting it published and I think it will give me the time to complete (to second draft stage) the three manuscripts I want to complete by the end of year.

Oh and just a quick note about the quote. I always know what I am going to do - book wise - but there is a point in planning to a certain extent, but as in life you cannot plan everything and sometimes you need to go where your characters take you. Mid way through a book one of your charcaters will do something that you dont really want them to do. But run with it and I believe the story will flow better - much better - go on... give it a go.