My writing group, Writing at Rosy’s, met last Wednesday. After a discussion about how walking isn’t as good exercise as you think it is, we managed to move to a proper table and start on the task at hand. Which was to examine the Premise versus Plot seed packets we’d been sent by Writers’ Greenhouse.
The seed packets are a series of writing tools you can buy (very reasonably) to help certain technical aspects of your work. They are divided into exercises which you can do individually or in a group, though they are specifically designed to work in a group. I did the individual exercises last month on a train journey and thought they were good but I was certain they would benefit from a group discussion. And I was right.
The Premise vs Plot packet lets you ‘explore what makes novels great and the difference between premise and plot.’ Somehow Megan at Writers’ Greenhouse had managed to put her finger on one of main worries with my current writing and sent me a seed packet that promised to help.
We started by looking at what made certain novels great, and discussed our own favourites. I’d worked out that I liked characters and setting most in my favourite books – and that plot was of less consequence (except, of course, when I’m reading a crime novel.) For others among us, their preference was plot based. We all rated characters. The trick for me was then to work out how to convey a strong changing character in a novel that, for many, has little plot. I vowed to go home and painstakingly write out what happened in each chapter of the books I was looking at (Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido and Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo) which is essentially just another excuse to read them again…
This was important to me because I was feeling increasingly hamstrung by the book I’m writing, certain that I’d got a great idea and very little action. I’ve mapped out much of the book already – though scenes keep getting added as I think of them – and I wasn’t sure if I’d got enough, if enough happened, to make it a book and not just a good idea that needed some fleshing out. The premise v plot exercises were enough to spark conversation and debate. We all shared our current work – the ideas behind it, a bit more about how we developed these and what was next. It was also suggested to me that I was over thinking it all, which is certainly possible.
Once in a while, all you need as a writer is to sit down among people who understand that you’re spending a lot of time in your head with people who don’t exist. And that your self-doubt a consequence of all your internal wranglings. This chat was helpful and positive and inspiring and doubt banishing and more. What it also means is that I’ll soon find something else to get hung up on, but for now, I’m re-reading some old friends and working out why I love them. And I’m running back to my characters who are sitting patiently on Scrivener waiting for me to get past this.
The Seed Packets are available from Writers’ Greenhouse and cover a whole range of topics and areas for development. They have a simple but professional design and are easy to use. I reckon I’ll be grabbing a few more before this novel’s done.