My Writing Process
So, one of the joys of doing anything is that, if you take it to a certain level, you are then asked your opinion on the best ways of doing it. Writing a novel seems to be the level for questions like, “What is your writing process?”
I cringed when asked this initially but then realized that I may have learned something along the way. I hope this helps. If not, luckily, I narrowed it down to just a couple pages.
When I used to run actively, I figured out the importance of slightly lengthening my stride for example. Running is a task we do naturally as humans, as is writing .
Writing is taking a concept in your brain and bringing it to paper. Because of this, the Great Muse of creativity has to deal with the filter of your own personality. For me, I am a learn-as-I-go guy. Some of this was innate and some of this was from my career. I vividly remember my first day on the job in the industry of my choice. It was Monday morning. I had sat down at my desk and the phone was ringing.
The manager stormed out of his office and glared at me. “Answer the phone.” He roared.
I meekly responded to the absurdity of this request. Since I was in high finance with stocks and bonds and options, w ho knows what I was going to be asked? I tried to respond quickly to his request by letting him know this but after I said, “I don’t know …” he quickly interrupted me and shot back, “You don’t know how to answer the phone?”
From that point forward, I learned everything by trial and error. It was like drinking from a firehose, but in a short period of time I had a tremendous grasp of a multitude of potential financial issues.
My writing works off that on-the-fly mentality. I begin with a concept. For example, “What if there was a world that was ammonia-based versus water-based and they were coming towards us to declare war?” I know it’s goofy and overboiled, but I am thinking of this on-the-fly. (1)
I would then take that concept and figure who I want my protagonist to be. In this case, I would like someone from the alien planet, maybe one of the lower ranked soldiers, not so low that they wouldn’t be privy to any information, but low enough that they wouldn’t know everything.
From there, I would think of a place for us to start. Reflexively, I like lunchtime on the foreign planet. This would generate many questions for me? What would he eat? What would be the different compounds that would be used on this planet as resources? What is the freezing and boiling point for ammonia? (2)
I would do the research and be off to the races.
Some writers prefer to have a strict outline. They list the bones of the story then break down the sections into smaller and smaller pieces. Then they put the flesh on the bones with dialogue and action.
I tend to have a starting point and then an expected ending point. In the story I have laid out above, m y expected ending would be for the alien race to destroy the humans through their superior fire power. I would probably research the Battle of Omdurman to get additional anecdotal information regarding a one-sided battle and use that as a template for my writings and emotions of our (the alien) side. (3)
Now the fun of writing in the on-the-fly way comes out in two ways. The first is that the book will almost definitely not end the way I expected it to in the beginning. I will change the ending multiple times based on what the Great Muse whispers to me along the way.
The second is striving for believability. Obviously, we are talking about a very (pardon the overuse here) alien concept. With that being said, I would want the protagonist and other characters to act accordingly. Following this as strictly as possible is one of the main ways I am forced to change the direction of a story.
Beings, whether human or not, are complex . If someone is being evil in the truest sense, they have been damaged in some way or they have an incredible desire for attention whereas they crave a shock reaction. Most beings are more complex. Antagonists do things that appear evil, but this is only after being filtered through their multifaceted rationale. For example, our alien soldier above would have no qualms killing the humans because she follows a strict military code to honor her country / planet. “Mine is not to reason why. Mine is just to do or die.” to modify the famous quote for my purposes. (4)
Writing comes from your own experiences and beliefs with a dash from the Great Muse to give you something that hopefully others will enjoy. To write, you have to enjoy the process as much as what is printed. I hope this helps.
- So, water-based versus ammonia-based planets is a real discussion. If you are interested, there are plenty of articles out there talking about this phenomenon and potential for life on planets that are ammonia-based
- -107.9 Fahrenheit (-77.73 Celsius) freezing -27.94 Fahrenheit (-33.3 Celsius) boiling. So much cooler than Earth.
- Battle of Omdurman was one of the most lopsided ones of all time. With a ratio of 1:250 for fatalities.
- The Charge of the Light Brigade – Lord Alfred Tennyson