Saturday, 23 November 2019

Going back to move forwards

Sounds like the title of a film, doesn’t it? However, this blog is not about a movie. It is about changing habits in a way, but is why sometimes you have to change them back.
As anybody who follows me on Facebook or Twitter will know, I have had severe difficulties using the dictation app that comes as standard with Apple. Unfortunately, Apple decided that they could no longer allow Nuance to access their software, which meant that Apple users could not use Dragon Naturally Speaking. This would not have been such a problem had the Apple integral dictation software been programmed to learn its users’ vocabulary or to learn from its mistakes, in other words, the user having the ability to tell it how to spell a word.
Neither of these two things happens and that means that the software is fatally flawed for everyone except bloggers or people who dictate emails - things that are quick to edit. In other words, millions of writers cannot use it efficiently because it makes far too many errors. For somebody like me who writes 100,000 word books, the Apple dictation software is useless.
Therefore, I have decided with much thought and a lot of regret that my increasing problems with arthritis mean I must go back to a Windows machine so that I can continue to produce my books by dictating them. This decision is solely down to Apple’s inability to realise that some users need a good quality, dependable, dictation system that learns with its user. My husband is therefore going to build me a new computer. 
The other thing to which I am returning and that is already resulting in a huge increase in my writing productivity, is to revert to my original method of writing. In other words, using the writing method that worked for me so successfully when I penned The Tudor Enigma.
All writers want to learn new things, try new things, but over the past four years, I became too focussed on other people’s methods of writing and plotting. I learned about inciting incidents, thwarts, character flaws and pacing – other people’s pacing. And, to be completely honest, writing lost much of its charm and became something of a chore. 
I have writing friends who plot every little detail of a book before they begin writing it. Jeffery Deaver allegedly writes 40,000 word preparations before he writes a word of the book he is planning. I have other friends who sit down with an idea of some characters and write the book by the seat of their pants.

My instinctive method, before I became bogged down trying other people’s, is what I call the roadmap method and it is a mixture of the plotter and the pantser. Since I live in the UK, I will use the UK roadmap to illustrate what I mean. Let us say I plan to journey from the Isle of Wight to Newcastle. The Isle of Wight is the beginning of my book. I know what my beginning is, who my main characters are. I know the basic plot and several events that must happen during the course of the book. To continue the metaphor, logic dictates my route needs to involve a passing acquaintance with London, Peterborough, Leeds and York (the events) before it ends up in Newcastle, which is the end of the book. However, since I write crime, I reserve the right to suddenly make tangential moves to Birmingham and the Lake District before heading up to Edinburgh and then circling back down to Newcastle. 
I do not plot the tangential moves, they happen as I write. Quite suddenly, one character will do something I hadn’t planned. For instance in my current book, a character made a sudden declaration of love to my main character that took both of us by surprise. It is akin to having booked a hotel in York and finding yourself in Liverpool. You have to rethink what is going on. 
Usually, I have found these tangential unexpected moves to be beneficial to the book. And it is instances like this that make me love writing and are things that could never happen when every little detail is planned in advance. Going back has reinvigorated my writing and my
passion for writing.  
     When I have finished this first draft, I will return to this year’s Georgia Pattison Christmas novella, While Shepherds Watched and edit that ready for publication before the festive season. I hope to have my current work in progress, working title Keeping Secrets out in spring 2020.

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