I attended the final day of this two-part workshop today at Hebden Bridge Library. This time the focus was on the structure and time-line of the novel.
Anna started by asking each attendee to choose a book or film from the room and explain to the group why we had picked it. This was to encourage us to think about the things we love about a novel or a film and to bring those things into your writing - you have to love it. She also recommended being a control freak - write about what you want and want to read, you are the creator of this world, you may as well make it one you love to be in.
We then started work in our groups on subplots. First we were asked to choose an object from a selection Anna had provided, then we were asked to use this object to link to a subplot. This was to take all the character names we had been given originally (in our group we had Louisa Wilde (the protagonist) and Joshua Scott, Francesca Filistowicz and Josie Pratt) and use the objects to inspire a subplot. We had the objects - a pack of cards, a pair of pink childs goggles, a small tribal man ornament and a small bottle of patchouli essential oil. We linked the patchouli oil to Louisa's Mum Francesca (her perfume) and the cards to Joshua Scott as he is a gambler and she meets him again in a casino. They then go to an art gallery (where the tribal man is one of the exhibits) and meet Josie Pratt.
Anna explained that the subplots should follow the shape of the whole story but that it does not have to follow the same timescale. You do need to have some link /connection to the main plot though. Anna then circulated a paper that had a graph set into four sections as follows: PART ONE beginnings, PART TWO middle 1, PART THREE middle 2 and PART FOUR endings and we used this to work out the timescale of the novel by arranging the events into the four parts and hooking the reader in to make them interested.
Anna then explained about the DRAMATIC PRESENT (the 'now' of your novel) which is where you're standing when you tell the story - you need to decide where it is. You can tell the story following a linear plotline (i.e. from the beginning to the end), via flashback (to tell us information from the past that we need to know - it can illuminate but it can't come out of left field, it has to fit in and make sense to them), using repetition (establishes a continuous presence e.g. Groundhog Day) or foreshadowing (telling the reader something which will happen in the future but this will affect the way the reader reads the story).
Anna said that the characters journey is both practical (what happens to them) and profound (how it changes them because of what happens). You have to decide 1) What is your novel about and 2) Themes (e.g. pride comes before a fall, good overcomes evil or the emptiness of wealth). She suggested writing two sentences about our novel using the practical and the profound to write a possible 'blurb' for the cover of your novel.
Anna recommended that you give yourself permission to write rubbish - if you are a perfectionists, you will block yourself and that it is better to make it up and then do the research afterwards or this could also block you.