Sunday, 25 May 2014

Do The Words Just Come? - Lynne Garner

Uncle Albert during his national service
A few days ago I was on the phone to my Uncle Albert  - all my close friends have heard of Uncle Albert. He's an ace with wood (he was a cabinet maker in a former life and the queen has apparently made him a cup of tea - although in truth I think she got someone else to make it), has a great sense of humour and sometimes asks some very probing questions. Anyway we were discussing the weather, what the dog was up to and how my writing was going. Then he came out with "do the words just come?" I asked him what he meant. "Well do the words just come as you write or do you plan everything first?"

After a few moments of thinking (I only do that thinking stuff in short bursts. I don't want to burn myself out with too much of it) I realised it depends on what words he was asking about. By that I mean dialogue or action. I never used to be a planner but a few years ago I attended a couple of weekend writing retreats organised by the Scattered Authors Society and from that time forward I started to plan (although very loosely).

However after looking at my current work in progress and the plan for my last published picture book (Bad Manners Benjie!) I discovered I plan the action. I know what's going to happen and when but the conversation I leave to the characters to write.

For example for my latest work in progress (a collection of shorts stories rather than a picture book) I have the following scribbled in a book (I do my writing directly onto my laptop but my ideas and planning are done in one of my many note books. I've a growing collection of them with some of the really lovely ones still empty, as I just haven't had the heart to write in them yet). Sorry I digress. These are the notes for one of my short stories:

  • Character A is out for an evening stroll when he overhears a conversation between characters B, C and D
  • They are planning revenge for a trick he'd played on them the day before.
  • Characters B, C and D agree to meet in a few days once they've had time to come up with some ideas. At this time they'll agree which is the best idea and start to plan their revenge. 
  • Character A decides to break into homes of characters B, C and D to see if he can discover what their ideas are.
  • etc. etc. etc.   
As you can see I know what is going to happen but I haven't a clue what the characters are going to say. This includes the internal conversations my characters might have. You see by the time I get to the writing stage I know my characters (I've live with them in my head and often have conversations with them), so when it comes to writing what they say they can do the work for me. 

Therefore my answer to Uncle Albert was a bit of both, which seemed to satisfy him as we moved onto another subject. 

So my question to the writers reading this is  the one I was asked, "do the words just come?"


I also write for Authors Electric - a collection of writers who have self-published some or all of their work. 


  1. It depends. I usually have a general idea of where a scene will go, but my stories become mechanical if I try to anticipate everything. Half the fun comes from discovering things along the way.

  2. Yes, I think of a general idea to begin with and then see where it goes. PS: You could write about Uncle Albert getting his cup of tea from the Queen, Lynne!

    1. Moira - I've drawn my 12 squares and have already started to plot the story.

  3. Just sometimes the words 'just come', but usually they have to be coaxed and molly-coddled and shoved into place!

  4. I'm with you on the 'shoved' into place. The last short story I've just got to first draft definitely had some shoving going on.