Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
Today I'm answering more questions from readers. Mrs Nesbitt and Gledwood both say they're running into a roadblock on similar projects. Mrs Nesbitt is writing an autobiography and says she has been hit by chronological issues, while Gledwood says, ``I need some advice. I'm attempting my memoirs and they're driving me nuts.''
Today's question: What do I do when I hit a roadblock?
The first thing to do is relax. Yep, literally and metaphorically. You ain't the first person to hit a roadblock and guess what - you ain’t the last, either.
Mrs Nesbitt, an autobiography doesn't have to follow a rigid pattern. A parade-ground approach to sequential events is often a boring way to write. Instead of going 1980, 1981, 1982 in sequence, why not group your chapters according to decade? That way, the Eighties would reveal the highlights and the best stories, told in an easy, flowing manner. Simpler for you, too, because you would then pick the best yarns - making the narrative easier for a reader to follow.
Gledwood, grab a strong coffee (or whisky!) and jot down the best stories, the most significant turning points and the most interesting encounters of your life. Then just work out a way to group them together. It could be a sequence such as ``Adolescence, High School, University, First Job,'' or anything that works cohesively. The key is to work out the best way to group them.
I've also been in close touch with another extremely popular US blogger, Dan, who is also writing a book. Again, we've been talking about an organised approach to writing - whether it is a haiku, an assignment, an essay, a thesis, or a book. As always, the crucial element is how a writer approaches the task of ``grouping'' random ideas.
Dan was one step ahead of me. Even before I could explain how easy it is when a writer approaches the task of ``grouping'' random ideas, Dan had it all figured out. He emailed me early this week. ``Yesterday the most extraordinary thing happened with the book,’’ he said in the email. ``Remember how I told you that I made a long list, an unstructured skeleton (about four pages in MSWord) with episodes from my childhood? Yesterday I started seeing groupings of those events: my hometown, my neighbourhood, my immediate family, my extended family, school, church, summer vacation, holidays, girls. I started shuffling the items into those groups. And I had the chapters of my book! The chapters wrote themselves.''
As I said to Dan in a subsequent rapid-fire exchange of emails, ``The task is so much simpler now, because things will keep falling into place and you just need to slot them in. Without a skeleton/ synopsis/ grouping of ideas, it's like trying to shove an entire wardrobe full of clothes for every season into a little overnight bag. It's impossible to do, and total frustration is the inevitable result. But when you have a skeleton/ synopsis/ grouping of ideas, you simply take what you want out of that wardrobe and stack it neatly into the overnight bag. Life can be so simple if we do things the right way!’’