Monday, June 13, 2016

My two month run with the book that wrote itself

Questions and answers.
I've already written about the decision to stop working on my contemporary novel to work on what I thought was just a fantasy short story. I think a followup is due as just this week I finished the 99K draft of the fantasy novel. It took less than two months to write, with an average of 7,000 words per week that included teaching, lesson planning, grading and professional development.

This was a completely different process for me. I wrote nearly every day for at least two hours; on weekends closer to six per day. In the past my books have taken a year to write, with a great deal of redrafting. I just finished the book, so I don't feel I can say that this one won't take similar grueling redraft work, but the first draft process has certainly been a different run.

In the last few days I've been doing cleanup on the draft and expanding a bit here and there. Nothing monumental. I want to get the draft out to my beta readers as soon as possible. This also forces me to step back from the work and let it grow cold. Then when I look at it again with the input of my beta readers, I'll be able to be less attached and really consider their suggestions. The book has felt like it wrote itself, so I really need the away time and their input to ensure the story arc is well fashioned.

With the first draft so fresh on my mind, I want to list the things I found particularly exciting about this new writing process.
  • My characters were constantly chattering in my head. I'd ask a question and the answers would come. What ifs?, why thats?, and who do it?,  inspired scenes playing out along each explanatory line. This Socratic approach to developing character and plot invariably lead to me looking forward to my evening writing session. 
  • Because I was writing as the ideas were coming, I often was learning about my characters in the same manner my readers will. Tendencies, reactions, objects that seemed innocent in one scene become important in later scenes. Or limitations or challenges a character had to overcome would teach a skill that was needed later. But very little of it was pre-planned. I don't usually outline my novels, but I often have much of the plot and the characters developed. Not in this case. I knew the main character and had one scene (the last one) largely imagined.
  • Because I had little plotting set down and few characters in mind, there were always surprises that added to the texture and conflicts of the story. One particular scene had two characters upstairs talking. A sound of objects hitting the floor below interrupted them. When one character turned to the other wanting to know an explanation for the sound, I learned about a new character and a on-going conflict my main character was going to have to deal with.
  • The daily flow of writing also kept the story line fresh in my mind 
  • I keep a OneNote (Microsoft Office program) folder for each book I write, and I turn to my notes whenever I am concerned about continuity. As I wrote this book, potential issues would come to mind, and I would open up my OneNote and add the information immediately. I have several sections: Wielder Lore, Characters and setting, Commerce, Society, Conflicts, and Research. Each was a resource useful for maintaining consistency. Having the story so immediate and the notes entered as the story unfolded kept me involved with the story arc.
  • I felt close to the characters and more in tune with their motivations because I was writing almost daily. I was behind by two scenes almost every day, so I never felt that I didn't know what to write.
  • It wanted to be written. There were days when I wished I could just sit back and watch a movie. The book wouldn't let me or at least not for long. Too much of me needed to keep writing because the characters never stopped being present and active.
  • Because I knew the story was always ready to be written, if a thousand words I had just typed looked to be leading in a direction that left my characters milling around uncertain, I would just hit the enter key a few times at the point where everything had felt authentic and ask, "So what are you really doing?" And off the story would run. Sometimes the words already written and set aside would get re-fabricated into the story; other times, I felt confident deleting them.
  • The story involves (among other things) a young man learning how to wield magic. Sometimes the magic would just take hold of him and he would wonder what was actually bringing about the results he thought he had initiated. Writing this book, often felt that same way. I, Elldee, would sit down to write and then two hours later, and 2000 words further, I would lean back and wonder what time it was, when I had last eaten and what the heck had I been writing.
  • I often would get immersed in my writing with my other books, but that usually occurred a third of the way in; whereas, this book started from the first word as though it had been sitting in me just waiting for me to agree it was time.
All and all, this writing experience has been productive. I wonder if my next writing project will run as quickly and fluidly.

Let me know about your writing process. Do you usually outline and develop in advance or are you a panster? This was my first seat-of-the-pants approach, and I rather liked it.


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