I went to a workshop at Nottingham Writers Studio last night. It was called ‘Plot your novel in an hour’ and was part of their summer taster workshop series, short sharp shocks to draw in the crowds and boost membership.
It was a packed room full of folk keen to learn the basics of plotting. And we did. Though I must say, I feel some people got a leetle too hung up on the intricacies of the example we were creating and perhaps didn’t get to grips with the bigger picture. But that had its advantages. In short, their working out the plot gave me time to apply lessons from the instructions to my own book. And I realised two things.
First up, my plots involve internal shenanigans. There are no shootings, burglaries or complicated blackmail plots. There are betrayals, loneliness and illness. This makes the lessons from a plotting session harder to pick apart, at least at first, but you can get there. It’s especially difficult to think about an antagonist. Unless I pick the illness itself. But that’s just silly.
The second thing was that my second character (there are two interlacing storylines) is far too passive and doesn’t do anything but allows stuff to happen to her. I knew something was wrong but hadn’t pinned it down yet. This was it. For this alone, the workshop was valuable.
This bloody character is causing me far too much trouble. I’ve already discarded 12,000 words of her when I realised they were wrong too. So the final lesson from last night’s workshop is that I need to sum her up in just two words – an adjective and a noun – and use those as my guide. These will tell me who she is and direct her actions through the rest of the book. Stick to that.
If you want to check out NWS’s courses or workshops, you can visit their website and book yourself on.