Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The case of the missing flamingo

Yesterday I hit 70,000 words on the novel, which is good news indeed. I was aiming for a total word count of 70,000, but I ain't done yet. Three major scenes to tackle and then I get to type those magic words, THE END. I've somehow managed to stick to my personal goal of 1000 words a day to get this thing finished in November. A bit of discipline was just what the doctor ordered.

Lately I've become a little bit obsessed about something and I thought I might as well share it with you. When it comes to writing, I'm not a planner. I'm what's known as a pantser (lovely moniker). I fly by the seat of my pants, with little or no idea of what's going to happen next. It's an exciting way to write, because essentially you're in exactly the same position as the reader - hopefully on the edge of your seat.

But I find myself worrying about all the possible alternatives - the things I don't write. What if one of those gazillion other options would have been better than the one I chose. For instance, I wrote a scene where a couple of my characters went to a cafe and were served by a Portuguese waitress. The scene is perfectly adequate. But what if they'd entered the cafe, sat down and found themselves being served by a flamingo wearing a bowtie? Now that would have been interesting. The story could have gone down a whole different route. It could have touched on so many important issues, like the ridiculously low wages flamingos are being paid these days. Or maybe not.

OK, maybe that's not the best example. But you know what I mean, right? Are there an infinite number of alternative versions of the novel floating around out there somewhere? Where the characters argue, or run off without paying, or dance the Macarena, or kiss? Who's to say the version I've chosen to put down on paper is the right one - the best one?

Hmm. This is all a bit philosophical for a Tuesday. I'd better go and make a cup of tea.


  1. do you get these thoughts during or after the scene is written? do you do anything about them or just keep going forward? I too am often bamboozled by the infinite ways. I keep telling myself I have to write like shark (keep moving or die) BUT yeah, I definitely think there is a bank of unwritten books in some corner of my mind. Haunts me! I used to love Choose Your Own Adventure (tho often would want to write my own alternative endings in...)

  2. I'm so impressed that you have sat down and said I'm going to do this and done it, well done you! I'm also quite excited that it sounds as though we may be celebrating the completion of the first draft when I visit! Yey

  3. Simmone- Write like a shark! Love it. I'm obsessed with sharks, so this works for me. The Flamingo Thing usually occurs to me after I've written a scene, and I do precisely nothing about it. It could drive you mad, couldn't it?

    I was also a fan of Choose Your Own Adventures. And we get to do that for a living... how cool is that?!

    Liz- Thanks, my dear. We will DEFINITELY be celebrating. If you're very good, I might even let you have a sneak preview!

  4. Well done Cat!!!! I think you have to trust yourself at the end end of the day that you're writing the best version of the story that you can.

    I'm interested to know what this story is all about but I'd better get to your other one first *ducks for cover*

  5. Lynsey- You mean to say you haven't read it yet?! I AM SHOCKED. Not really. Don't worry - I'm not going to hunt you down and force you to read it. (Not quite yet anyway...)