Writing

Plot-eating monsters and other dangers

Plot-eating monster
I am 15,000 words into my children’s book and I have a problem.

My plot is missing HUGE chunks.

Some plot-eating monster has come along and gobbled huge mouthfuls of my story and left me with odd bits and pieces that don’t quite fit together.

(Thanks monster.)

Where are these missing pieces?

How am I supposed to find them?

In desperation I have started picking apart some of my favourite children’s books; painstakingly summarising each chapter in the hope that it will help me figure out how a plot is put together.

So far I have picked apart the following:

  • James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl)
  • The BFG (Roald Dahl)
  • The Last Wild (Piers Torday)
  • The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas (David Almond)
  • Inkheart (Conellia Funke)

It’s a risky strategy which can only end in one of two ways:

OUTCOME 1:
I come down with a severe case of Unworthiness and realise I was nuts to ever think I could ever write anything. Ever. The End.

OUTCOME 2:
I come down with a severe case of Genius, fire off the rest of the book in one evening, and skip off into the sunset with my manuscript tucked under my arm.

Guess which one has happened?

Luckily I’m in good company. David Walliams started re-reading the books he had loved as a child in preparation for writing his first children’s novel The Boy in the Dress:

“I devoured Stig of the Dump, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and – my absolute favourite – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This last one instantly made me want to give up writing. It was perfect.”

Hmm…maybe analysing children’s books isn’t such a great idea?

At least one good thing has emerged from this. Picking apart so many books has highlighted just how different they all are. Different voices. Different characters. Different plots.

There is no pattern. There is no magic formula. And that in itself is quite a liberating thought.

I’ve still got great chunks missing though.

 

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4 thoughts on “Plot-eating monsters and other dangers

  1. I can completely relate to how you’re feeling, Katherine. I too want to give up sometiimes when I see what others are doing, and know I will never be able to do. But your conclusion about discovering how DIFFERENT all those good examples are from each other is great! That is the key to hold on to. There isn’t just one uniform standard we’re being “judged” against, and there are so many different right ways that a thing can be good!

    So keep going, best of luck plugging those holes, and I’m dying to read what you’ve written!

    [if my comment has aleady appeared, please delete. had weird log in probs, and my comment vanished… I think.]

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    1. Thank you so much – it’s a biggie, isn’t it, realising there is no one way to do something and anything goes really. I’m looking forward to the day I write a post to say I’ve finished the book (you’re near Brighton aren’t you? We’ll have to meet for champagne at this point)!

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  2. Agatha Christie never worried about plots not hanging together perfectly or making complete sense. She wrote to entertain and did v well! (I know shes not a children’s writer but still worth thinking about).

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