Hello! Welcome to my second post. Before we get started, I need to ask you to, if you haven’t already, follow me on my social media accounts. I am in the market for representation, and being able to list my media accounts to Agents and Publishers helps me more than you can imagine! I know it’s annoying to hear every time, but it’s very important, and the best way you can show support! Please feel free to cross post or share any of my social media posts to your followers as well!
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My Writing Process
In My first blog post I said that my next post would detail some behind the scenes details on Afflicted, as well as insights into my writing process and style. After beginning to write this and realizing that my writing style alone is long enough to be an entire post, I’ve decided to stick to that and go in depth on Afflicted in the near future. Here goes nothing! I haven’t taken any courses or anything, so my process is 100% my own and, like my projects, is constantly evolving the more experience I get.
How ‘in depth’ I go into a project depends on the beginning, because if I chased after every stick my mind threw at me I’d be running in circles forever! I usually think of a scenario in logline form, and a character. From there, I’ll try free-writing a chapter and see how it feels. If I’m into it, I will spend some more time thinking about the development of the idea – what is it, where is it going, why is it going there, who is involved, and the major story goals to achieve. For example, one of my Active Projects; Shadow’s Edge, started as a free-writing chapter in a café and, honestly, is probably one of the best most fluid pieces I’ve ever done on a whim. Once I start going, I find it easy to expand the story.
Thought Process & Outline Planning
I equate writing a novel to building a house. The 1st draft is always going to ‘suck’, because the first draft should, in my opinion, just be you getting the story on to paper…building the foundations, so to speak. Each draft after is built upon those foundations, and eventually you have a brand spanking new house! Similarly, when I am planning out an idea, I like to get the broad story beats and their location first, before almost ‘filling in the blanks’ in between those beats. As I’ve said above, I only really do an outline if I know an idea can survive the first chapter. My outlines come in three different areas – story, novel, chapter. My story outline is not rigid, and has a lot of wiggle room for future ideas and evolution. My novel outline is a microcosm of my story outline in that it includes the main story beats, the areas, and plotlines, and the main goals of the novel for the plot and characters. The chapter outline is my ‘fill in the blanks’ space, where I take the novel outline and really dive deep into each individual chapter and how it progresses the plot and characters, while fitting into the overall narrative and outline. It is only after I finish this and have laid out, in Scrivener, each chapter by name, with an overview and notes, that I can really start writing the novel properly.
I was once told that the average novel should be 100,000 words…pish to that, I say. A novel should be however many words it takes to tell its story. Afflicted Part One runs in at 235,000 words, and that’s with over 50,000 words of content cut and/or pushed into later releases or Free Fiction short stories down the line. Is this attitude going to hurt me in the beginning on the hunt to get an Agent? Probably! But goddammit, I’m doing this and I’m doing it my way. Erherm…anyway…rant over……..I do not consign myself to word limits. The story takes as long as it takes. Saying this, with regards to chapter lengths, I try and keep most of them around the same length in any given book. Some chapters that have the big story beats or action set pieces are often about 50% longer than normal.
I definitely have a set limit of drafts that I allow myself to do, which is 5. I find that I can just keep going and going forever and around the circle goes on changes, re-changes etc., so I really have to just commit, and I feel like 5 drafts is enough to achieve that. Draft 1 like I’ve said is really just getting things down on paper. In Draft 2, I go over draft 1 alone and beef things up a bit, adding in a lot of description and filler that isn’t present when my mind is racing to get the story down. I also tweak a lot of dialogue, and overall draft 2 usually doubles the wordcount of the project. Draft 3 is what I call the ‘collaborative draft’, where I share Draft 2 with my alpha readers and ask them for their feedback on a chapter-by-chapter basis. This is where a lot of my spelling and grammar mistakes come to light, and where I have others look at the ‘small print’ of the novel and see if they catch anything I don’t, or have any suggestions. I also take in their overall feedback on the story and character progression. Draft 4 is an amalgamation of my alpha readers suggestions and my own. I do a read through the novel and make sure everything is looking good, and polish things further. Draft 5 – the Final Draft – shouldn’t bring any significant changes. This draft exists to eliminate any remaining errors, and to check continuity and beats. Nothing significant should be changing in draft 5 – I just like to have it and read everything through one last time to make sure it looks good and is the best version of my work that it can possibly be.
When I decided to pursue full time novel writing, I made a choice to treat it like my ‘normal’ job – work 6/7 hours a day with breaks. Have goals on a day-by-day basis, and be disciplined. One of my big worries was that, if I were to add all this into the process, would I lose my creative edge? I know for some; it is hard to combine the passion of story telling with the nitty-gritty of actually getting the work done. For me, I can thankfully say it had no noticeable effect. If anything, it gave me another gear of focus to work with. My process does not change from the first draft to the final draft – come in, do your hours, make good progress, celebrate what you did, and then leave and do something else. If I am more busy than usual during the day or have stuff going on, I at least try and set aside a 2-to-3-hour window in the evening to make some progress. Doesn’t have to be good progress, but any progress will do.
Defeating Writer’s Block
I feel as though I am extremely fortunate in that I rarely suffer from writer’s block. To be honest, I suffer more from indecision. As I’ve said, my outlines are fluid and I’m always open to change. Sometimes there are two or three different decisions a character can make, and I get stuck trying to decide which to commit to canon. I use an exercise where I ‘act out’ the scene with words, and that helps me get a feel for what comes most naturally. I don’t want my characters making perfect decisions, or being perfect people…I just want them being true to themselves. Acting out scenes really does help me get ‘unstuck’, I feel like getting into characters and hearing voice lines out loud gives my head an extra dimension to work with and helps get the mind moving. I recommend giving it a try!
With every idea I decide to pursue, I ask myself how commercially viable it could become, and whether it has the potential to be a hit or not. I know some of my projects will suit a niche crowd, while others will be another drop in a very overpopulated pool. I do try and look for gaps in the market, or look at other mediums and see things that have been successful there that haven’t necessarily been translated or attempted in the literary world. I understand it is important to think of this just as much as everything else, as I am in this to become a well renowned author who writes books that get sold to publishers.
One little note about Afflicted – this is an example of both a niche genre and also of a style that I haven’t seen in books, but have seen be very successful on other mediums. I’ve found that outside of Max Brooks, the ‘zombie novel’ or ‘post apocalypse’ genre doesn’t seem to get much variance. I think The Last of Us really shook up the genre by focusing on characters over military might, by looking at the end of the world through ordinary people just trying to do their best to survive, and it has been very successful in the video game world (and hopefully the TV world in the future). I’m honestly hoping Afflicted will have a similar ride in the literary world.
I hope you enjoyed a little insight into my process in its current form! If you are a writer and this helped you in any way, I’m very glad! If you’re a friend or gaming acquaintance and you read through this out of support, I’m super thankful! My next post will be a dive into Afflicted, and I expect to have that out by June 16th 2021! This is DG signing off for now.