Now that the text for Squishy McFluff the Invisible Cat is done, I have lots and lots of time to think about the second book, Squishy McFluff and The Supermarket Sweep.
It also needs extending quite a bit and I've started adding to it here and there. Going back to it has made me think about the different ways I've been writing the Squishy McFluff stories. It's also made me wonder whether other people have a standard (and sensible) way of pulling their ideas together.
When I wrote the first story, it was almost a re-write of my column, on Parentdish, about Ava's imaginary cat. It's changed a lot now (see my last post), but when I began, I essentially had the plot already – it just needed to be written differently, with a sparkle that would make children's hearts' pop.
When I came to write Supermarket Sweep, it was a bit different. The idea for Ava and Squishy McFluff going shopping did actually also come from a column I'd written, so that was the seed of the idea, but I didn't intend to just transform it, the way I had with Invisible Cat.
Instead, I sat down and started writing, without knowing what was going to happen in the story. The plot just came as I wrote: I started at the beginning and finished at the end.
I did go back and forth, of course, when it was done. Some ideas that had come initially were dumped and replaced with ideas that worked better, or seemed funnier, when I'd given them more thought.
But there was no real planning, no forethought. What would Miss Holland have to say about that I wonder?! She was my English teacher when I was about 13 – I remember her drawing a strange spider diagram on the blackboard, illustrating how good creative story writing came about with logical planning: beginning, middle, end; intersperse with characters A, B, C…
The third book, Squishy McFluff Meets Mad Nana Dot happened differently again. With this one, I began not at the beginning, but the end ("what madness is this?!"), when the last two lines popped into my head at some ungodly hour.
The lines were about Ava's little sister, Baby Roo, being born – and I realised they were the basis for a whole new story (Mad Nana Dot would be required for a little spot of cat sitting, you see). So I got up and, with my eyes pretty much closed, I typed them on to a Word document, before shutting the laptop and going back to bed. In the morning, I looked at the lines I'd written in the dead of night.
Tgey wrre vry garlbled ad fll of tyops, but I'd managed to get them down just well enough so I could read/understand them!
From there, from the last two lines, I worked backwards a bit, perhaps a third of the way, then I started writing from the front, and joined it all up somewhere in the middle.
Book four, Squishy McFluff and the Seaside Rescue was perhaps more standard in its creation. I wanted to send Ava and McFluff on holiday – and by this point I knew that the text would need to be much longer than the others.
So (get ME!), I plotted it. I typed out in prose what was going to happen and in what order. The most important part was thinking up the gags, the funny parts. And with those done, I created a new document and began writing in verse. The jokes went in the right places and, as I went, I filled in everything between.
Now that I'm on to tinkering with Squishy McFluff and The Supermarket Sweep, I'm finding myself employing other methods. On occasions, if I have a craving to write McFluff rather than anything sensible (for my day job), I just sit and hammer out funny words that rhyme.
I have lists of them, on a Stickie on my desktop:
Wobble squabble gobble hobble bobble nobble / flipping snipping tripping ripping skipping zipping
… I'm sort of building a Squishy McFluff rhyme-a-saurus. Sometimes just pairing up silly words will be enough to give me a new idea for what's going to happen.
So do you write? How do you do it? Are you as haphazard as I am? I often see Tweets from other writers about how an idea has come to them in the middle of the night, or at 4 o'clock in the morning. I think it's common for creativity to invade your space just at the time when your body is trying to wind down and relax.
But what about the plotting thing? Is that going to stay with me? It worked last time, but then so did writing with no plan at all. I'd love to hear how you do it. In the meantime, I guess I'll go with the flow, as all cool cats do.