I’m not a planner. Well, I am with projects and I’ll plan writing so that I don’t miss deadlines. Also, when required to, I can outline a story or script. Plus, there have been times when I have had to plan a story just to get it clear in my head or knock it out fast enough for a producer. And I’ve planned hundreds of events, I’m a planner there even if I doubt any of those talks or workshops or sessions has ever stuck very closely to the plan.
But apart from all events and certain stories and every commission and most projects, I’m not a planner.
I prefer to just start writing and see where it takes me. Now, if you do this, if you are stupid enough to do this, you are obligated to know that you’ll be writing rubbish. You have to know that you will – and I have – written a hundred thousand words of which you then throw away ninety thousand.
I think that’s a bargain. You get ten thousand words you’re happy with and all it costs is ninety thousand you’re not. I’ll take those odds and I have, many times.
But I feel as if I’ve talked a lot with you about fairly bleak things lately and I want instead to tell you something about all this that makes me happy. Very happy.
This will take a sec.
Often – maybe always – you’re reaching the end of a script, a story or even an article and you know you need something. I think you know what I mean and I’m certain that I can’t define it any better than this. There is just something more you need. A moment, a character, a thought. Even a plot point. It’s something that, if you get it right, is the final part that turns a piece from a string of words into a story.
And the thing I so adore is that sometimes – just sometimes – you realise you’ve already got it.
Something you wrote earlier in the piece was clearly there solely so that you could call it back, so you could pick it up, so you could build on it, so it could create some kind of harmonic. You didn’t do it deliberately and you haven’t been working to make it fit the end but it’s so right that it is as if you did and you always knew it was the finish.
It’s crucial to me both that it can perfectly do this thing for the end but also that I set it up so thoroughly and completely unconsciously.
As I say, it only happens sometimes but it is inexpressibly wonderful when it does. I feel clever, I feel daft, I feel satisfied.
And the reason I’m telling you now is that I’ve had the biggest, greatest, most unexpected one of these.
I shouldn’t say it, really, since I haven’t yet written the end that so gave me this feeling. But I will. Because I can’t fail to tell you everything and because I have a collection of short stories coming out and I was looking at a tiny moment in one of the tales.
It’s really small. It is completely unimportant and it only keeps its place in the story because it’s what this particular character would say at that particular time.
I’ve easily re-read this part a hundred times during the preparation of the manuscript, quite likely more.
And yet this time when I read it, I knew.
He says this thing because it is also part of another story.
There wasn’t going to be another story, there are already ten in the set and they are long done but now there has to be another one. It is complete, or it will be, and it is of itself, you will not have to have read the first take.
But if you have, I think this incredibly small moment will make the book complete.
You will not be able to guess which story came first and you will not know that I didn’t do it deliberately. Plus I didn’t know this but the book would not have been complete with this tale which I am compelled to write, which demands to be in the collection.
‘Course, it could turn out rubbish and I could end up dropping it from the book.
I don’t plan these things.