Working out how to re-plot Not Even Myself has not been easy. I've been hoping a flash of inspiration might happen if I spent time on other things. I painted a picture of Bath Abbey, I polished a couple of short stories, entering one in the Mslexia competition and two in the Bristol Prize. I even resorted to distracting myself with sorting the rubble mound that was once our dilapidated garage. But still no flash moment has occurred. I've felt a bit uninspired, lost.
Enter Laura from my writing group. She suggested I try looking at Save the Cat. Save the Cat? Turns out, it's not a book for firefighters but for screen-writers. There's a plan that lays out the basic format of a screen story but it would equally apply to short stories and novels. I've never looked at a 'how to' before, gaining understanding about writing along my tortuous way instead. It should be instinctive, shouldn't it? But as I've been foundering on the plot rocks, I decided I would give this method a go.
After sitting at a screen trying to fill in the Book Map for Golden Egg, I knew I had to be more physical with the plot board so I created my own large version using post-it notes. Already I'm clearer on the order of events in my novel. I'm also clearer on when those key scenes need to occur. This has been a big problem for me, the pace. The crisis point, where there's no going back, has been clear from fairly early on but the rest of it has felt like a jumble of scenes with no definitive direction. The plot board is allowing me to make sense of my plot (which is there just in that slightly tentative, wishy-washy way) and how to make the reader want to continue reading. As for worrying that I might be using a system that will make my writing formulaic, I came across this quote from Delacroix.
“First learn to be a craftsman; it won’t keep you from being a genius.”
Which is, after all, what all artists have to do: learn the basics of drawing, the rules of tone, of perspective. Only then can you break them. So this plot board is me, understanding the rules. Yes, most of it's instinctive, but being consciously aware is a revelation.
I'll never be a planner but maybe, once a free-flowing first draft is written, I can use the plot board to tighten up and clarify the story, the themes, the crisis point before I move onto the next draft. I wonder whether this is the final element I needed to understand to become a writer. But I've a feeling there's still more to learn!