I hate when books annoy me.
I don’t know if it happens to other writers, I’m sure it does, but books have a way of annoying the shit out of me. It’s like a cat meowing at you constantly until you feed it. I got asked recently how I write books. They didn’t understand how it comes out of your brain, through your fingers and into a full book. I didn’t really have an answer. It just does. It might be years of training, looking at the screen, plotting out points and chapters, and now it finally flows, or it might be something else. When I write, it’s like watching a movie that I’m in control of. Each second the character walks through the spooky, abandoned building, I’m right behind them, where the camera would be. I can picture what I’m writing, so I just describe what I see.
Where it gets a little weird is when something surprises even myself. I’ve often said, ‘wow, I didn’t see that coming.’ I don’t start a book unless I have vague idea of the ending. The beginning’s the easy part; the middle is hard, but important, and the end is scary. Scary, because finishing a book means the end of all those characters that you love and hate, the years of turmoil and sludging through the hard wall of writing, and then it finally comes to an end.
I used to plot in my head what the upcoming chapter was going to be about, and when I got time to write, I would think of a good opening line and then write until the chapter was complete. With the novella I’m currently writing, I’m trying to put words down every day. There isn’t really any time to pre-plot a lot of it, so I just wing it. That can be equally enthralling and nerve-wracking. There is a chapter where I wanted my main character to meet another character, who will appear later and be of significant help. I just needed to introduce him first. So, I thought, why not meet at a cemetery? I made her ‘stumble’ upon the graveyard, let her walk around reading some of the tombstones, then they meet, and he scares her, then they get talking and it’s all fine. There was something about this kid that I knew I wanted to keep from the reader until the last chapter or so. All this chapter really was, was getting the two to meet. I could have set it anywhere; the shops, a car yard, at school, at the mall, on the street… you get the picture. A cemetery gives it a good scene. How many conversations have you had with a stranger in a graveyard? Not many (I hope). So, it puts the reader somewhere different, then you can let the reader go on this introduction between the two. What are they gonna say? Are they gonna get along? Are we gonna see him again? These questions make the writing easier, as you have a lot of ground to cover in, hopefully, not many pages. It’s also a set up for later, so you know you’re going into the chapter hiding something up your sleeve that you will reveal, and it will hopefully pay off. Where do you start? Okay, what brings Main Character to the graveyard? She’s exploring the new house. Okay, good. Why is the kid there? He’s bored at home and can see it from his window. Okay, plausible. What’s the point of him coming back later in the book? He wants to see her again… done to death, something else… he wants to save her from something but doesn’t, that’s sorta useless then. Maybe he has some information that she needs to defeat something and comes in at the last minute to supply said information and helps save the ‘moment’. Okay, done. Everything else should flow from there.
‘Hey, whoa, you scared me half to death.’
‘Sorry, I just saw you walking and thought I’d come over and say hi.’
‘Do you often hang around in graveyards by yourself?’
‘I was gonna ask you the same questions.’
Mix dialogue with scenery description. What I do is add something at the end of each line, for example: ‘Do you know witches used to live in this area?’ he said, picking up a piece of broken tombstone and examining it. You shouldn’t use it every time, just now and again. ‘What time do you want to go?’ she asked, fitting the whole piece of cake in her mouth. Now you should have the plan for the chapter, what you want to accomplish, some tricks to writing and a general aim to your story. Once these things are done solid, you can’t help but want to get back to the keyboard. I often think of chapters while on the train and can’t wait to write them. They will generally remind me throughout the day, or week that they are there waiting. Over time this muscle becomes stronger and writing becomes easier and you become better. When the books call, I hope you answer.
Mitchell is the author of Skellington Key, Heather Cassidy and the Magnificent Mr Harlow, and the Everdark Realms Trilogy
Visit Mitchell’s bio here