30 January, 2012

On Losing the Plot

Do you ever get moments when your writing comes to a complete standstill? It's not writer's block exactly - you know where your plot is going - it's more like you just have no idea how to get there. There is a plot, you've just lost it. I suffered from this recently with my novel-in-progress, Thousand-Word Things.

I have just got back from Vancouver. My husband needed to go over for a couple of weeks to help out with a work project and so I tagged along too and the lovely folk at Deviant Art found me a desk in the office so that I could work on my novel while Paul was writing computer programs. For the most part, I found it productive to be working in an atmosphere where everyone else was working too, but for a while I did lose the plot somewhat. Having worked through this - thanks partly due to a timely pep talk from my American friend, colleague and talented writer Andy Stewart - I got my fingertips on to the edge of the plot, only to realise that in finding it, I had lost the art. The story was moving on but with no finesse, no beauty, none of those sentences that have you smiling long after you've finished the chapter.

So, at the moment I feel like I only have a tenuous grip on the plot and no grip at all on the art of writing. But apart from that, it's going well! I'm glad we don't have to get things right on the first draft, aren't you? Imagine if you were judged as a writer on your first drafts. Stuff of nightmares, right?

Usually, I'm the sort of person that can only work on one thing at once. But in Canada I found it refreshing to spend an hour here or there tidying up a few short stories. Editing can be a nice change from writing. Thus, I have managed to enter a couple of little competitions in the last few weeks, including the one run by ChocLit publishers. The challenge here was to write a story with the central theme of chocolate. Not a very inspiring subject, is it? That's exactly why I thought I should give it a go! Quirky challenges are good for the imagination. I'll let you know how I did when the results are out.

I have been hoping to find paying markets for short stories. I enjoy competitions but it would be nice to feel like I could get some professional work. Most SS markets seem to be quite niche though. There's a very healthy women's magazine market and a fairly big science fiction/fantasy/alternative market, but not much for general fiction. Those magazines that do take general fiction tend to be very literary and feature work from established authors which intimidates me into not submitting anything to them! Perhaps online magazines are the way forward? Any advice on the matter from people who have been there and done that would be greatly appreciated - I'd like to feel as if I'm branching out a little in 2012!


  1. Hi Chloe, glad you enjoyed your overseas adventure! Subscription site www.writethismoment.com sometimes has magazines looking for fiction.

  2. How cool to get your own desk in the DA office! Often a change of location really gets the creative juices flowing (even if it's not beautiful writing!)

    Don't be intimidated into not entering competitions; many of the bigger competitions offer a feedback service which is the perfect way to improve. Best of luck!

  3. Thanks Derek. I used to use writethismoment but only found one or two useful links on it over several months so I stopped. Maybe I will try again now that I'm looking for something specific...

    You are a fan of DA then, Angeline? I've just started looking round the sit properly. Are you on it? It wasn't their HQ - which my husband also goes to once a year and is on Hollywood Boulevard - but their secondary office in Vancouver where all the real maths goes on! Little quiet place with just a handful of geeks - very nice! Paul tells me HQ is quite rowdy - not sure I would have got much writing done there! It was pretty cool though. Sometimes I find it a bit crazy that Paul is a senior developer there so it was nice to meet some of his colleagues who are usually just a voice on the other end of skype!

    I will try not to be intimidated...

  4. Duotrope is a great resource for magazines accepting stories.


  5. Thanks Martin, I hadn't heard of that one.

  6. Yep - got Duotrope too.

    I don't often have too much problem with the plot - it's my favourite part as it's like a puzzle. I'm a bit unusual (my Dad does the same) in that the plot (bones) always comes first and the fancy writing (or what we call the filler/muscle) comes later. I can never start a writing piece without knowing roughly where it's going. However, this isn't the case with a poem.

    You'll get there - a long journey thinking about it will get you there.

  7. I don't think that's unusual. I think most people have a plot before they start, even if some writers look down on that. I know exactly where my plot is going and how it all ends up, I just had a couple of days where getting from one step to another seemed difficult! I think it's mainly because I am writing it from 4 different view points. Plotting is my favourite part too!

    It's interesting that you write poetry differently. I don't write poetry so it seems like magic to me!

  8. (Of course, when I say plotting is my favourite part I do try and be reasonable about it! The worst thing would be to try and crowbar your characters into the plot you have in your head. If my characters tell me that they wouldn't say or do something that I need them to, I try and listen and be flexible with my plot. There's no point writing a beautifully-structured, badly-written novel! That's where getting to know your characters is key. I think so, anyway!)

  9. Ah well - four points of view would do that to you.

  10. You're probably right. It's my fault entirely! It seemed like such a good idea before I started...!


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