Wednesday, 20 June 2012

How do you change a duvet cover?  I always feed one corner of the duvet into the new cover, then hold it securely while I do the other corner, then shake the cover down.  A friend does something clever with starting with the cover inside out and then flipping it over, which they insist is a far better way than mine. I think it is too, except I can't seem to work out the mechanics and spend longer trying to work out what I'm supposed to be doing than I do on changing the cover.

The 'flip it over' method doesn't come naturally to me.  Neither does planning a novel.  I've tried it, and enjoyed setting it all out on cards, and doing little charts and all sorts of colour co-ordinated bits, but when it came to actually writing the thing, I couldn't.  The story I wanted to write was something quite different, and whenever I tried to wrestle it back into the plan, I couldn't.

Stephen King sets out without a plan at all.  Ken Follett does 300 page plans (and yes, that is about half the length of the novel, and I'd think at this point I'd start calling it a draft, but it's a plan to him).  Ruth Rendall plans her novels, writes them, then changes who the murderer is, re-writes the novel. I've heard of other novelists collecting snippets of writing in a file and gradually seeing how they work themselves into a story.

Some people plan, some people don't.  Some people lay down the law that the only way to write a novel is to do this, or that, or follow this formula, or let your muse roam free. Some people are very convincing and persuasive about their writing method, so convincing you think that if only you could use that way of writing, you'd be as good as them.

The only way to write is to try every method out and see what happens.  Hopefully you'll have fun along the way, even if you do go down a few dead ends and blind alleys. The only right method is the one that works for you. And in the end, so long as the bed gets made, does it really matter how you got there?


Giles Diggle said...

... and sometimes you have to turn the mattress, reposition the bed, change bedrooms or if you really fall out with your book you may have to ask it to sleep on the sofa... sometimes you just have to buy a new bed and start over.

Sarah Duncan said...

Oh Giles I laughed at the idea of asking the book to sleep on the sofa - just brilliant.

Giles Diggle said...

Unfortunately for my works in progress, I own more than one sofa! :-)

But I don't make them stay there long.

Marina Sofia said...

I am a flipper myself, but only after years and years of backbreaking work and complaining about the inefficiency of the other method. So an old dog can be taught new tricks! I absolutely agree with you, Sarah, half the fun is in the experimentation - especially if you are not working to deadlines.

Liz Harris said...

I make my bed in the same way as you - I once tried flipping the duvet, taking my sister-in-law's advice, but never ever again - it was hard work.

With a book, I just couldn't do a detailed plan with cards and colour-coding. I think I'd find that such pre-determination would make it difficult to let the characters develop, and much of the fun of writing a novel is feeling the characters grow beneath your fingertips.

Liz X

Edith said...

Another excellent post! As a beginner I am buying all the how-to books on the market, but they all tell me different things. On a good day I can take what I think will work for me, and on a bad day I get utterly confused! Your piece here helps me to trust my own instinct. Thanks!