Thursday, 27 October 2011

Knives Out

One of the things I learned about on the road with the Spelling Bee (in my past working life) was Groupon, from which I recently purchased a set of Prestige kitchen knives. When I watch cooking shows, I love how the chefs chop things so effortlessly, and I have always wanted to see if I could do it as well.

After a three-week wait, the knives finally arrived yesterday. I haven't had an opportunity to try them out properly yet, though Alison reports they made light work of the orange bell peppers last night. The set includes a boning knife, so I may need to buy some kind of dead animal from a butcher soon.

Apart from the pumpkin risotto for Friday, that concludes this week's culinary experiments, so onto literary ones.

This protect represents a number of firsts for me. It's pretty much the first time I've written about someone other than myself (a few short stories aside). It's the first time I've done research for a work of fiction. And it's the first time I've kept a writing schedule.

When I was on high school and college I didn't need a schedule. I had loads of free time, energy, and ideas. Now I have none of those things, except the ideas. I have to write them down to avoid forgetting them all.

A schedule is one of the tips I got from the screenwriting books I read. When of read younger I rejected schedules. I wrote when inspiration hit, and you can't plan for that. But I have so little time now I have to manage it carefully or I'd never end up writing at all (something the past three years have illustrated clearly).

The thing is the schedule really works. I write before bed Sunday to Thursday for at least a half hour. Most nights I really wish I could put it off. I'm just not in the mood, too tired, whatever. But I force myself, and within a few minutes, the writing starts to get pretty good. I always end up feeling it was worth the effort.

The thing I'm working on now, I don't really have a name for. It's a kind of pre-writing (preparatory writing you do to flesh out plot, characters, etc, that will inform the story but not literally be part of it). It's too long to be a synopsis, but way too short to be a treatment. Basically it's a condensed version of the story so I can check to see if I have all the beats, plot points, character developments and such worked out before I start the actual writing. The last thing I want is to get a third of the way in and find I've literally lost the plot.

When this treatment-esque thing is finished, I plan to work out the three-act structure, the five plot points and eight sequences, just like I learned to do for screenplay. On addition, I want to do a complete chapter outline, firstly because I want every chapter to be named for an ingredient or dish that features prominently in the chapter, and also because I want every chapter to have a purpose. That's another thing I learned from screenwriting. When I tried to write my first book, I wrote when I was inspired and focused primarily on the writing style, never really giving a thought to how the chapter would fit in with the whole. The result read that a lot of chapters read beautifully but didn't go anywhere. In a screenplay, every scene has to have a purpose. There are several reasons for this. One is that most audiences won't sit through a scene where nothing happens. And script readers will bin the script anyway, so the film would never get made. Also, films are expensive to make so you can't afford to film dead air. Well, print is expensive too, and readers have a lot of other, more exciting options for their spare time, so are they really going to read a whole chapter if they're no further along at the end of it? Or will they put their Kindle down and play with their iPad 2? So in terms of progress, I'm nearing the end of Act 2. Of course, I still have to make up (and test) a lot of recipes. Next time: the results of my pumpkin risotto.