Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I'm a mathematical sort of person really. Some of my friends and colleagues are amazed I can do anything as creative as writing fiction. I'm a computer programmer, I enjoy algebra (I even did a maths degree by choice), I like coding in 2B pencils perfectly sharpened (I have an electric sharpener) and I smile when the Tupperware biscuit container is all packed with neat lines and angles of shortbread.

So where do the words come from? Tonight, as I reflect on completing the first two chapters of Samurai Kids 5, and schedule the remainder to meet the 5 month deadline, it occurs to me that perhaps creative chaos comes from mathematical order. Chaos theory is nothing new and words and numbers have always been related.

I don't plot. I map and graph. There are fourteen chapters in every Samurai Kids book. This was quite accidental - initially I wrote thirteen, my editor pointed out that much as I like to do the big action scene in three lines (I submit I've improved since then) I had excelled myself this time and knocked the main character unconscious, woken them up and referred to the big action scene that happened off camera while they were asleep!!! So a whole new chapter was required to redress the omissions. The 14th. Two chapters for each virtue of Bushido.

And then there are usually 40,000 words or thereabouts. Divide it out. There are 122 days left to write not counting weekends. I might write then but if I do, it will be to catch up or play or maybe even work on the secret alternate ms which I always have going. I divide some more to get the number of words I'll write every night until the deadline.

Chapters spill out along a sine curve. Thats's how I know I'm pacing properly. My characters a,b,c and x,y,z plug into equations that create situations that create plot. An interview process of sorts.

I just wish I could always solve the equation right first time. A maths problem solved is 100% complete. Nothing more required. But a manuscript no matter how well written is never as good as it could be. The refining goes on forever. Or in mathspeak: "The equation of the derivative tends to infinity."

1 comment:

Robin Gaphni said...

I love hearing about the process writers go through (outline or no outline; edit as you go along vs. edit later). Your mathematical mapping and graphing was fascinating! Thanks for sharing.

P.S. I do not outline, and I revise as I go along :-)

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