The Method to My Madness

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-paper-sheet-pen-wooden-desk-close-up-image37351326I admit, the title is a bit misleading. This isn’t so much a post about what’s involved in my writing process; it’s more the story of my ongoing quest to find one.

I’ve always been a seat-of-my-pants writer. (For those of you unfamiliar with the term, that’s a writer who grabs a pen, or a keyboard, and just starts writing. No outlines, no plans—just a desire to get the story down.) In hindsight, it makes sense that I would approach writing this way. For most of my life, writing was a hobby. I would write a novel, slap it in a ring binder, and move on to the next one. I never bothered to edit, and I certainly didn’t share my stories with anyone. I wrote for me, and only me. End of story.

All that changed when I wrote The Final Formula. It was better than anything I’d written before, and suddenly I wanted to share. I joined a workshop, learned to edit, and um, three years later, I published it. (Yeah, I was a big chicken.) During those three years, I wrote more in the Final Formula universe, and those stories became the next three titles in the series.

With the release of The Necromancer’s Betrayal, it was time to move into uncharted waters. I had to write the next book with no pre-written stuff from years past. I found that daunting at first. There are actually people waiting for the next installment. I didn’t have time to screw around with the seat-of-my-pants writing style I had previously employed. I had to learn to plan ahead, to (gasp) outline.

I’ve never been opposed to outlining. I don’t believe it cramps creativity or anything like that. I would LOVE to have a road map as I work my way through the writing of a novel. So over the first few weeks of August (when not winging my way through the early chapters of FF3), I read a number of books on outlining/plotting. I scribbled and fought, and finally I did it. I wrote a plot outline!

My outline is nothing fancy. Just a sheet of notebook paper with a line or two per scene, grouped into chapters. I know my outline isn’t perfect—I had to overhaul the thing about a third of the way into writing the novel—but it’s a start. Like every skill, it’ll take practice before I’m proficient at it.

OldNovels

When writing was just a hobby: ten unedited novels.

Another technique I’ve begun to employ is pre-writing. Before each writing session, I pull out my 9.5 x 6 inch spiral notebook and map out the nitty-gritty of what I want to write in that session. Sometimes it’s just a few notes on the next scene. Other times, it’s a plan for an entire chapter. My notes aren’t terribly detailed. I like to leave room to explore, though I will include snippets of dialogue. I love writing dialogue and it always opens up the story and lets me see what’s really happening.

Maybe all of this seems like a lot of work before I even start writing the story, but I believe it will help tremendously in the long run. Granted, it took me two weeks to nail down the outline, but I’m super excited about the results. My daily word count has improved, and I’m hopeful of meeting my goal of releasing FF3 this December.

Now I better get back to work…

6 comments

  1. Not that I check your website every day (okay every other day) thanks for the update. I tried writing once and never got further than the outline and some witty sentences of dialogue. I know it takes effort. Thank u for not giving up. However December? I want it for Halloween not for Christmas. It is going to be a long close to 4 months for FF3. Please post a snippet or two to torture me during the 4 months.

    • I’m delighted that you’re checking, but as slow as I am, daily might be too frequent, lol.

      I would love to release FF3 sooner, but I’m still new to this writing on demand thing and I was afraid to give myself too tight a deadline. I didn’t want to give readers a date, then fail to make it. But yes, I will certainly continue to torture you with the occasional snippet (typically on my Facebook page). 🙂

  2. Very interesting to hear about your process! Really looking forward to FF3 🙂

  3. Thanks for the update and insight into your writing style. I’m looking forward to the next Final Formula installment. It’s such a pleasure to read a(n urban fantasy) book with serious chemistry … ahem … alchemy in it!

    • LOL! I’m not so sure about the serious part, but yes, lots of alchemy…and explosions. 😉 Which reminds me, I don’t think I’ve blown up anything in FF3 yet. I best go remedy that.

      Thanks for reading!

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