A Peek at the Process: Part II
Thanks for coming back! Of course, if you’re not “back,” but just joining me, here’s what you missed. On Tuesday, I decided to post the first part of a blog chain that gives a little insight to what us emerging authors are working on, how we work on it, and where we’re headed. Without further preface, here’s the continuation of that post.
Why fantasy—and where’s the “epic?”
My obsession with castles and creatures is an inescapable passion woven into the fiber of my being from as long as I can remember. Some will argue that medieval-style fantasy is warmed-over, but I disagree. I truly believe that it is a niche that resonates with enough lovers of the genre to justify writing it.
I tend to write “tight” to my characters in terms of plot because I don’t have a highly political mind. In order to write with the breadth of my current favorite author, (Brandon Sanderson) I think you need to have a greater grasp of and passion for political intrigue, and that’s just not who I am. Not that I won’t stretch that direction, because I think it will make my worldbuilding stronger, but my wiring is innately feminine in the aspect of wanting to focus in on individuals and their personal experience as the outside world messes with their plans and passions. There’s not much about me that’s terribly feminine, but I can recognize this tendency as likely tied to my chromosomes.
How I go about it…writing
My writing process, as much as I would like to say it is consistent, is not. It’s not that I’m drifting around, waiting for the muse to drop in. (Because I personally believe that it a mentality that locks many writers into the “never finished a manuscript” category.) My inconsistency has more to do with having too many pots on the stove at once, and sadly, writing lives on the back burners on a periodic basis. Realm Makers conference coordination has a lot of people wrapped up in it, so you can’t just let that sit off to the side. Writing, on the other hand, only involves me, since I’m in book-by-book contracts. It’s easier to put off the personal projects than to keep others waiting, at least for me.
All that to say, when I start a book, I have a character concept in mind, and I have a general idea what I want the character to accomplish externally. From that, I devise the general concept of what I want the character to experience internally. From there, I write from the seat of my pants, letting one thing lead to another in the plot. Throughout the drafting process, I tend to “plant” a lot of material that I may or may not “pay off” later. If I find a use for the plant, it stays in the book when I start to revise. If there was no satisfying “pay off” that comes in later (and by pay off, I mean a way to tie the element into a game-changing later event) the plant goes to the cutting room floor. I take this concept from my analysis of early PIXAR films. If you watch films like Toy Story or Monsters Inc., you see that every little element, seemingly thrown in as a whim early in the film, comes into play later in a plot-significant way. I love this method of “no waste” storytelling, and I hope I’m getting better at it as I go.
Once the book is done to the best of my perception, it goes through the wringer with my crit partner, then gets anywhere from 2 to 7 passes of more editing, then goes to Beta readers for that final gut check of “Do you like this?” If I run into stuff my crit partner and I didn’t see (because we are getting to know each other well enough that sometimes we make similar story assumptions), I fix that, and then the hunt for a publishing home begins.
Originally, I had planned for Curse Reiver to be the second book in a trilogy, whose third book offered only the barest skeleton of what I thought might happen. But as I wrote through CR, I developed some pretty dramatic, high stakes, about midway through the book, tied to a plot element that was only a stop along the way to Danae’s ultimate goal, to free her father. So when I got to her return home, I faced a roadblock. The ending scene of the book was far too “small,” in proportion to the rest of the book’s conflicts.
The solution? Take the central conflict—the only element I had developed for book III—and use it for the climactic event in this book. What I thought was going to be a 90K word novel grew to more like 140k, but you know what? That feels about right to me in terms of story. There’s no rule that says it has to be a trilogy. The duology should be able to tie up most of the loose ends, and now I just have to decide if I should throw an epilogue onto the tale to answer a lingering question or two about Danae’s long-term future.
Eh, I’ll probably write it and let the critiquers tell me if I should drop it. They’re great for judging outcry about what you left out or shouldn’t have put in.
So there you have it, my extended version of the “My Process” blog hop. I hope this gave you some ideas on how you might tackle your own inspiration!