Everytime I begin a new writing project, I find myself going through the same emotions. The first 10,000 words or so are painful to release. I sit in front of my keyboard trying to figure out how I can fit all of the ideas I have together into something resembling a cohesive story. I’m not very good at planning out a book before I begin writing. I’m what other writers call a pantser, referring to writing “by the seat of my pants”. I generally come up with a basic synopsis of what the overwhelming story will do, not really having a clue of how I’m going to get about the different plot points. It’s basically a hit list of big ideas I have for the story.
After that I begin developing characters. I’m actually pretty darn thorough with character creation. I create a multitude of characters that I believe will serve of some use, give them a fairly elaborate backstory (much of which never actually makes it onto the written page) and come up with some random tidbits about them, depending on how I feel. These tidbits can range from favorite colors, to high school attended, to what they think about while watching television. I then generally go a bit further and develop the different factions involved in the story. So, for instance, for The Legend of Buddy Hero I created a development profile for The Fat Mogul’s Meta Mob (which didn’t get used too much in that story), the shady government agency, and even Sun City itself (the location the events took place).
It then becomes something of a jigsaw puzzle. I have all the pieces, but I have to work to determine how they all fit together.
That’s where the truly interesting parts of writing come into play. These development pieces really just serve as inspiration fodder. It’s really easy to come up with random items regarding a person or place, especially when you know they aren’t going to be used in any official capacity (as written). But then there’s a basic foundation to work with. Knowing the layout of Sun City helped me determine where I wanted things to go. Knowing that Buddy Jackson was the burnout he is and that he had a sister which was his only real support system made opening the story up quite easily.
Many things in these development pages get tossed out as I go along. There were four different characters that I had developed in the planning phase that will never see the light of day, as they were determined to be useless, although pieces of them may end up appearing in other characters as time goes on.
I’d like to consider myself a fairly organized pantser, even if I have no real clue how the story is going to end up (even if I had plans written into my simple synopsis). But that’s the fun part. With all of these jigsaw pieces developed, I find that the story somewhat works itself through. Having fully defined characters means that more often than not, I realize as I’m writing that the story has to go a different direction than I had planned as I started on that piece, because the characters wouldn’t act the way I had intended them to.
And then there’s something more. . . writing this way is very much an act of writing by feel, feeling things out and getting a hunch about how things should move forward. This came to fruition quite strongly just a few days ago as I was writing pages for THE RISE OF THE FAT MOGUL. I reached a point in the story where I knew exactly what was coming next, the characters were moving the story quite organically, but something didn’t quite feel right. I had a form of writer’s block in that although I knew what events followed exactly after the ones I had just written, it didn’t seem right to go straight into that. It felt as though some form of foreshadowing needed to be placed in there, even if it had nothing to do with the pages surrounding it.
After sitting in front of my computer for around an hour, just brainstorming all of the possible options on what could fit in this little interlude I felt was necessary, something hit me, something that I should have been aware of all along, something that was completely necessary for the story proper, but had never planned on. . . and, most importantly, something that feeds directly from the previous book.
This is why I love writing. It’s troubleshooting at its finest. And when things begin to fit together (you know, without forcing the wrong pieces into the wrong spot), the world starts to get a little brighter, and I feel excited for what I’m doing once again.
With that being said, I’ve passed the 10,000 word mark of THE RISE OF THE FAT MOGUL and am getting into some very exciting stuff. In fact, two pieces of the puzzle that I had no clue on how to fit in organically came together quite easily, and I’m excited to start writing them.
Speaking of which. . . have a good one!