Tag! I’m it.
This post is about my current writing process and the work that my process is both forming and informing. The idea is courtesy of M. A. Chiappetta. She and the ladies at Purple Ink Writers started this blog-hop with the intention of getting some discussion going about the writing process and the things that we writers are working on right now. I want to thank Michele and company for tagging me as part of the hop and hope that it can provide some insight and exposure for me as I continue my work.
They came up with four questions to answer and explore for this post, so without further intro, let’s jump in.
What am I working on?
I am currently rewriting the opening chapters of Betrayed, my debut novel – the first of trilogy – in preparation for agent/publication submissions later this summer. It is a YA fantasy adventure about a boy named Rainen and his journey to restore the health and magical power of his mentor and friend after he accidentally steals that power. Their relationship is further threatened when Rainen makes a questionable alliance with an outcast from another group who is searching for a way to regain her own lost power, but whose past puts Rainen’s life in jeopardy.
I am also drafting the second season of a radio-style drama called Dangerous Love – a modern noir thriller – for the local performance company, the Main Street Radio Players. The story follows Jessica Blake, formerly of the FBI, and her husband Russell, a reformed member of a local criminal organization, as they try to build a new life together. Season 2 sees Jessica being forced to rejoin the FBI, with Russell in tow, to take on a new shadowy puppet master controlling the remnants of a national cartel while its former leader plots revenge against the couple that put him in jail.
And finally, I’m in the planning/outlining stage of a custom murder-mystery/dinner theater script for a group of friends after we had such a fun time with one I wrote last year. If it turns out as well as last time, I plan to start working with local event and party planners to see if any of their clients would want to use what I’ve already done, or would like to order their own custom scripts. Last year’s was based on the TV show Firefly and this year’s on Eureka. They almost venture into ‘fan-fic’ territory, but we had such a fun time, I think there is a viable business waiting to be developed.
So, plenty on my plate
How does my work differ from others in my genre?
In YA fantasy, I personally have not run across people who are working with very in-depth, developed magic systems – ones that almost border on being the ‘science’ of that culture. I see it plenty in adult fantasy, but not as much elsewhere. I’d like to bring that to the YA scene. I also have not seen lots of secondary world YA; almost everything I’ve read recently takes place on Earth. While my world is very earth-like, it is not our world.
On the radio drama front, I don’t really know that I’m all that special. I’m just trying to write a story that’s engaging. Though I will say that for Season 1 of the Main Street Radio Players, I was the only serious story in a bunch of comedies, so I guess there’s that.
And for murder-mysteries, no one is producing the type of script that I do. These are full scripts – since the themes have been TV shows, the scripts are written as though they are an episode from the show. Set/scene changes, fade-to-commercial marks, and blocking direction all intermingled with the dialog – it reads like a TV script. This was a HUGE hit with my friends who said it was so much more engaging than the ones we had done in previous years. Again, it borders on fan-fic, but I could easily see branching out into other areas and stories that are specific for the group doing the party.
Why do I write what I do?
The guiding phrase I tell myself is that I write good stories for good people.
I love to read. I love books. I want to write the kind of books I want to read – a mix of escapism, inspiration, and thrill. I have a hard time finding authors that I can read from beginning to end and that continue to be interesting. Writers that stray from formula and commercialism to examine life. Those are the stories I want to write.
As far as the genres, I keep finding people who keep asking me to write something. The radio play and the murder-mystery both came from outside of my desired area, but I love that both of those forced me to try something new. I love experimenting and trying out something I’ve never done before and seeing how the skills I build there inform later work. The radio play is nothing but dialog so I really had to learn how to make words due double, triple, or quadruple duty. That makes my dialog in my novel more robust – I trust it more.
How does your writing process work?
Generally, I get the basic story seed in place and let my mind start to mull over how it impacts characters, plot, and setting. An initial idea always presents itself very early and for me, it becomes more about crafting that idea in something complete. Each pass changes it more and more, but the initial story seed is never lost. That nugget of idea is the part that drives interest for me, the thing I want to explore, so though the story may shift around that idea, at it’s core, the theme never varies.
As such, I am a mix of outline/discovery writer. I have to know what the end of the story is going to be and will get a basic outline in place, but I have become much more willing to let myself leave the outline if my subconscious finds a thread it wants to follow.
This become very significant for me during the initial draft of my novel where I had a hard and fast outline and was unwilling to depart from it. During National Novel Writing Month two Novembers back, that unwillingness nearly killed me as I rewrote the same chapter six times trying to make the ending that I outlined work. Finally, I gave up and just let the story wander and the ending came together all by itself, tying in SO MANY themes and elements that I had started earlier in the story. It was so much better than what I had planned and was completely different, the outcome being almost the exact opposite.
I try to trust that more now. I know I will do several revisions of a book, chapter, scene, or paragraph before I’m happy, so rather than spend the time outlining in slavish detail, I give myself license to play and discover along the way. It’s been working so much better that way.
But I am a huge proponent of understanding story structure. The 7-point Story Structure and Dan Harmon’s Story Circle are two massive hammers that I keep ready in my toolbox. I use them constantly – from outlining to drafting to rewriting to revising – banging out the structure to keep my stories coherent. If I find that I am struggling with a story, structure is the first thing I check.
So, that’s it for me. Great questions and I really hope to continue the hop – I’ll be tagging a couple of writers on Facebook and encouraging them to answer as well.
5 thoughts on “The Writing Process – A Blog-Hop Post”
I like your term “discovery writer” much better than “pantser.” That’s what I’m using from now.
Thanks for the response!
Yeah, pantser had some definite negative connotations in my mind. And for me it really is more about discovering something rather than a “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” mentality.
Awesome post, Grant! I learned a lot about your writing, and I’m very intrigued by the script work you do. Sounds very cool. As far as plotting, I’m with you on 7-point story structure. I’ve found that very helpful. But I hadn’t heard of the Story Circle, so I’ll be looking that up. Thanks for the tip.
Thanks for the comment. I really like Harmon’s explanation of the circle, makes it understandable in nice layman terms. I also will think thru the Hollywood Formula proposed by Lou Anders in one of the Writing Excuses podcasts. Makes for a nice check to ensure the structure is ready.