Ran from the Bowling Alley, writing the Novel El Niño – Process and Structure. #12 –

After researching the robbery of Chartbusters, and getting ran from the Bowling Alley, it was time to sit down and push El Niño (the novel) forward. I knew two things were needed – Process and Structure. Having been a writer for a while up to now, it became obvious that inspiration is a fleeting, unreliable thing. Real writing comes when you want to do it least. If you wait to be inspired, you’ll never write anything. This is why so many people sit around the pubs and coffee shops and say: ‘I have an idea for a novel, I’m going to start it next year….’ or ‘….it’s all in my head, I just need to write it down….’ when it comes to the laborious, tedious part of the work – the least enjoyable part – nobody wants to do it. There’s a misconception there that writing ought to be a divine experience of unrelenting pleasure after which award winning books appear at no personal cost to the author.

At the time, I was sharing a house with three other people that worked 9-5pm. This was ideal because I could work around their schedule. When they left, I’d have the house to myself and begin writing. At 11am, I’d take a break until 11.20am and then work until 1pm. At exactly 1.08pm, my housemate, an accountant, would come home for lunch. At this point, I’d leave the house and go for a walk and have lunch in Eyre Square. I’d be back to the house for 2pm and then write until 5pm. My aim was to have 2000 words of decent material by the end of the day. Some days it was 1700, others it was 2400 so it all balanced out. So I had my structure – now what about process?
My brother was doing a project at the time about cars. He asked me to look over it. It was all about new diagnostics for the upcoming smart revolution. Mercedes were doing this new technology where they put radars in the front grille that sent out signals to the road ahead to see what hazzards might be there. There’d be a constant relay of information and if an obstacle should appear up ahead, the car would automatically slow down and alert the driver. I thought the same concept could work for writing so I began to plot the chapters before writing them. I’d write down some key notes on paper about where the story is going – e.g One of the gang gets caught, rats on Charlie, cops arrive and threaten Charlie….what happens then? Charlie agrees to cooperate? Tells them go fuck themselves? How does this affect story up to now? What does it mean for the plot going forward?
Then I’d sit down and write it out. By the end of the day I’d have all the questions in the notes answered and do the same again tomorrow. This ensured a coherent way forward as opposed to writing all over the place and having to throw most of it out later. The writing itself was first draft and changed dramatically along the way, but the story stayed mostly the same.
The crucial thing was that I knew how the story would end. This is important. A story with no ending can potentially go on for infinity. Put in an ending, even if you change it later. You need to know roughly how long you’ll be driving for. Otherwise you’ll start thinking about turning around and going home.
This process kept me going until Charlie and the gang decided to rob a Post Office and the question loomed – how we going to research that, Micky?

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