After months of not quite managing to get focused for one reason or another, I finally sat down last night with a pile of index cards to make sense of my latest novel idea. The length of its gestation so far meant that my thoughts were somewhat scattered: some had made it into Scrivener, others were caught up in ramblings in this blog, most were in a scribbled stream of consciousness in the notebook I bought for this project many moons ago (and took TWO DAYS trying to find this week, finally discovering it beneath a pile of clothes under my dressing table just as I was about to give up hope).
Part of me felt like I was being a little unfaithful to my second novel. It is, after all, not yet finished. I mean – it is finished, but it still has a way to go to complete its journey. Grace and I have spent so much time together that I feel I owe her that sense of closure; but it is, for the moment at least, out of my hands.
And actually mostly it felt fantastic to be pulling together all the strands of this next project. Terrifying too – an idea that seems strongly formed when it exists only in your mind can dissolve into smoke and mirrors when you try to hold it up to scrutiny. But there was plenty there to work with, so work with it I did.
I knew from the start that the narrative for this project was going to be more ambitious than anything I’ve attempted before: different voices, different times, all telling the same story from different directions. And before I work out exactly what those directions are going to be I want to make sure I’m clear on what the story is – the bare bones of it at least.
And that’s where the index cards come in. The pink ones are for the past, the blue ones for the present. Yellow for characters, green for settings, and white (a late addition to the mix) for questions. There are quite a lot of those.
I think I have collated most of what’s written down elsewhere. It ranges from really specific scenes to more general periods in time, as well as the people and places I think are going to be important. I want to spend a bit more time with my cards this week – noting down the thoughts that haven’t yet made it out of my head, filling in some gaps. And I guess I’ll see where that takes me.
I haven’t planned like this before – but then I haven’t attempted anything so non-linear. I think it’s going to really help, having those physical cards, when I come to the next stage of working out how it all fits together – both in terms of how the story happened, and how I want to tell it.
The final decision is going to be how I want to write it. In the past I’ve always written things ‘in order’ – but that could mean so many things this time round it’s not so clear cut.
So there’s still, if I’m honest, quite a lot of chaos.
But at least I’ve made a start.