I didn’t write books for the first 45 years of my life for a variety of reasons, the main one being that I was no good at plot (I’m no good at ballet or calculus either).

This is not an example of false modesty — I’m really no good at How Things Work and What Happened Next — mainly because I don’t care. My brain is wired in such a way that it skims over the cold hard facts of any story, cutting straight to 1. what on earth is she wearing? 2. that relationship will never last, and 3. are they or are they not having sex?

This means, that despite really really wanting to have the concept of international debt or Byzantine caravansary inscriptions explained to me, I do frequently find myself wearing a Concentrating Very Hard expression while thinking about what’s for dessert.

I feel I deserve some credit, having bravely overcome my handicap in order to achieve a creditable career as a writer. Though sometimes I lie awake at night, consumed by life’s terrifying unknowables, such as how Jeffrey Archer has sold 130 million books with no discernable talent for anything at all.


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15 thoughts on “Losing the Plot

  1. ej runyon 6 years ago

    I also think in ‘not-plot-ish’ ways. For me an exchange of dialog or an image drives the scene, and then those scenes are strung together and manage to ‘get somewhere’ though no help from me, it seems.

    Will you even discuss what you do make your novels from? That is, discuss your process in a teacher-ly way for a novice to take something from, to use on her own?

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      OK, will do, for what it’s worth. Stay tuned.

    2. Shelley SOUZA 6 years ago

      I’m tuned. I’ll even read your reply on my iPad on a London underground train and people all around me will say, “Wow! an iPad! May I touch it?” And I’ll say, “Only if you stay tuned to Meg Rosoff.” (Though I may be a few months late in trying to stir the Wow factor for iPads at this point, but I was an early adopter so that should count for something). I, too, am no good at plot, ballet or calculus. I knew I liked you and your books for a reason.

    3. Meg 6 years ago

      That’ll be me, with my grubby, ink-stained fingers on the tube, trying to fondle your early-adopter i-pad.

  2. bookwitch 6 years ago

    I’d be happy with another cream meringue. For dessert. Not to read.

  3. David Lubin 6 years ago

    i can help with international debt…

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      You CAN? For heavens sake. Why weren’t you offered George Osborne’s job???

  4. Claire 6 years ago

    I am rarely concerned with point 1, but 2 and 3 do seem indeed rather crucial. As indeed does dessert. 🙂

  5. Michelle 6 years ago

    Phew! Now I know I don’t have to feel guilty about having those same thoughts.

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      I don’t know, Michelle. I’m not sure my having those thoughts absolves either of us from accusations of triviality. Still, if the shoe fits…..

  6. kokorako 6 years ago

    Meg, it seems your brain is hardwired to make you the obvious writer of “The Only Way is Essex” (1, 2 and 3 are the only questions that count on this strange scripted reality TV show although layering fake eyelashes seem to be important too). But there is a 4th question you used to raise, the life/horse lessons which you’ve raised so often on this blog in relationship to tenacity, writing, ideas etc. Am I assuming (from a slightly earlier Oct blog entry) that giving away your riding jackets to the beautiful lady is a horse detox or simply wardrobe clearing? Either option has me worrying what’s left for you to wear; and how did the horse affair end? I don’t think I can make a crass link to 3 this time though!

  7. Meg 6 years ago

    Oh, you are paying attention, Nicola! First of all, when I’m not worried about what people are wearing, I’m usually thinking about identity, the meaning of life, or death, so do I get half a point more than the Essex writers for that, maybe?
    As for the jackets — it was a conscious decision to make sure I didn’t weaken and drift back into hunting or cross-country again, which I know I could easily do, having a very short memory. But the riding is going strong, on a new horse — and I’m doing all the proper dressage stuff I never learned before, like riding in a proper outline which somehow is so much harder than it looks!

  8. Kathryn Evans 6 years ago

    Ah you make me smile :O) Have never forgotten your tale of Sally Gardner’s advice re: The Bride’s Farewell – Lose one of the kids. I took that to heart. Can’t for the life of me remember where I put them….

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      Still don’t know how I’d write without Sally G. She solves most of my plot problems for me. Effortlessly. And with great panache.

  9. Nick Cross 6 years ago

    I used to think I was really good at plot, but it took an agent to put me right on that one! Then I thought I’d got better, but now I have an editor pointing out where my plotting is going off the rails. Maybe none of us knows anything but how to muddle through and hope that something great pops out by accident!

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