I managed to finish the two stories I was working on in time to submit them to their competitions. It was down to the wire, and if I’m honest they could have used more time, but I’m happy I pressed myself and finished. Better yet, that strange story I was working on in Writing Partner: Working With a Group, Part 2 has now been submitted to a contest as well. So I’ve started the year off running. I managed to get 2 shorts published last year; I want to at least double that this year. I think this is a good start toward that goal.
Next on the agenda is finishing this edit of my book. I’m still putting together the writing partners for this work, they are really fiddly, but I can’t wait to show them off! After that, it might be time for a professional editor to take over. I was thinking of using one of the resources on Reedsy for that but if any of you have experience in this realm, leave me a comment. Any information will help.
For now, though, I’m going to spend the weekend on my podcast. He Plays She Plays has been on hiatus for too long. Like everything else, I’ll give you a full update when we finish what we’re working on.
I have mentioned a few times that I’m currently revising a novel. This is the part of writing that I enjoy the least, so, when I can, I have been reading and listening to a lot of seminars on writing and editing to try and learn better methods. While this is not a new topic for me, it has brought the term “Discovery Writing” to the forefront of my mind.
I know people who have said they never use outlines, but I guess I always assumed this was an exaggeration. I thought that what they meant was that they didn’t have pages of bullet points and chapter breakdowns like I use. I was wrong; some people go in with very little prior planning and still manage to have a working story at the end. It seems magical to me, but it does happen. However, is it right for you?
What is Discover Writing vs Outlining
Forewarning: when I describe theses terms, I’m going to do so in extremes. I don’t actually believe in black and white scenarios in the real world, but it is useful for the purpose of definitions.
Discovery writing is free form writing with no pre-planning. Proponents of this style of writing say it is more exciting and it comes out in the writing. If you derive satisfaction from the writing process, this may be for you. However, this method may come with drawbacks such as inconsistency, both in writing style and narrative.
Outlining entails planning out the structure of your narrative before writing. People who espouse the virtues of this style will say that it creates a story with better pacing and structure. If your satisfaction comes from crafting complex plots or from completing works, this may be for you. However, if you are too devoted to structure, your writing can feel stilted and you may miss the hidden gems that come out of discovering something new about your characters and setting.
Again, in most cases, many writers do a bit of both. Like everything else, writing is on a spectrum, and achieving success and satisfaction comes from figuring out what appeals to you. There are no right answers and there is no such thing as normal. You should do what you enjoy.
Why I Plan
Short answer: because I have to. It’s how my brain works. I tend not to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard until I know both the start and the end of the story I’m going to write. Then I write out detailed notes on the structure before I actually start writing.
It turns out, I’m a baker and not a cook. I work best with a recipe. I like structure. Does that make it less of an art form. Hell no. Don’t let anyone tell you you have to be spontaneous to be an artist. That’s just elitist pretension. As you write more, you will figure out what works best for you.
That being said, even with poetry and flash fiction, I need some planning. As usual, I’m going to use a visual medium to explain.
I bought that miniature on a whim and had no plans for it. I started adding paint to it over time with no real strategy. I even tested out paint markers on it as I would new writing techniques. This was the result:
It was very poor, and by the end I decided I had to fix it. To do this I made a strategy for which paints and techniques I would use to revitalize the golem.
Is the end result perfect? No. But having a strategy really helped me in a way my instincts alone could not.
Others people may find better result with discovery writing. As a visual example, here is the first mini my wife painted, no plan, no experience.
How I Have Incorporated Both Styles
Over many years of writing and with my recent introspection, I have figured out I do a bit of both techniques. I plan a lot, but as I write something interesting happens; my characters take on a life of their own.
I find that over the course of numerous drafts, my plot points and structure changes very little. But my characters change a lot. I think that is because it takes writing, not planning, to find a character’s voice. That voice has to come from somewhere, and as it changes, so does their background and characteristics.
This is something I have only noticed recently and I think this accounts for why some of my previous long form projects have failed. I was too attached to my initial plans. This is why my first book failed.
After I wrote my first book, I received feedback I didn’t learn from because I was hesitant to change what I envisioned. I had fluff in parts so that it was the correct length, my intended word count and date range (dates really mattered in this book), even though none of my readers liked those sections and I didn’t enjoy writing them. When my character started shifting into a morality structure I didn’t like I changed it back to the intended frame, even though it made less sense narratively. I removed the spontaneity because it wasn’t the plan and I refused to adapt to changes in my voice.
Regardless of which side of the writing spectrum you are, you need to have flexibility. Devotion to one path will make you miss the strengths of the other. For me, that was devotion to the plan. For you, it might be a resistance to one. In either respect, don’t be afraid to be flexible. Embrace constructive criticism, alter your plans if it makes a better story and, by God, edit and revise your work!
Anyway. I hope that was helpful, or at least self affirming. Let me know what your process is in the comments. Maybe you have a strategy to make revision fun? I’d love to know it. Maybe next year for novel writing month, I’ll take a stab at discovery writing. Just sit down with a basic premise and see what happens. Knowing me, I’ll mess it up by spending my first day charting it out in a spreadsheet…
So I’ve finally finished redoing my previous chunk of editing and I’m ready to get back to fresh work. In the next tent-pole chapter, our protagonists will be at a location with all the principle murder suspects. In this edit/re-write, I’ll be focusing on emphasizing these suspects and strengthening red-herrings for the plot. Because of this, I have chosen to represent each character with a unique figure to paint. Introducing: the unusual suspects!
Look at this lovely police line up! This diverse group of individuals may not all look like my characters, but they do a good job embodying them.
Lets start with this great wizard from the Cthulhu: Death May Die board game:
This wizard will represent a colleague of the victim and will provide unique insight into his profession work in alchemy. He will also allow me to talk about the amoral nature of science and discovery through the lens of magic. The figure itself is a great fit for my book, as it’s a fantasy book in an early modern setting. Death May Die has a 1920’s aesthetic which makes it a perfect fit for this kind of project. Not to mention the monsters in it are gorgeous; I’m sure we’ll be seeing more from this set in the future.
Next up is a fellow Goblin:
This is one of the ornamental Goblins from Feast of Bones Warhammer set we covered a while ago. Because it looked plain by itself, I added one of the Ogre daggers to its back as if it was a Goblin sized broadsword. I think it looks pretty cool like that. In the book, this character is an ex-lover of the victim and will give me a natural way to talk about Goblin culture without it seeming like exposition (though it is). I picked this mini specifically because of that accusatory finger point!
The Third suspect is an Elf. My Elves are not Tolkienesque and are instead diminutive fae-folk so I chose a halfling from the Wizkids D&D line:
I find that the Wizkids minis are extremely good for their price, especially the large ones. The smaller minis are sometimes a tad half-baked. This little guy, representing the prime suspect, needs some serious work. I have mold lines and extra resin to trim and it’s lacking detail in a lot of places. What I do like about him, is that dagger and posture. Much like the character I’m writing, he is much more dangerous than he appears.
Our fourth suspect is a Dwarf crime boss:
This miniature is also from the Wizkids line and has some of the same issues ad the Elf. It is probably the least fitting mini of this group but I’m trying to avoid kitbashing it for the sake of time, so I’ll try not to let it bother me. The character it represents is one of the main crime lords in the city and has many reasons to hate the deceased. But did they do it?
I saved the best for last. The final suspect is a Demon:
This Wizkids demon doesn’t look much like the demon in my story, but I think it is a great visual representation of its inner evil. I love the detail of this mini. In D&D, this is called a Nalfeshnee, which is a mid-tier demon. I like its pig face and tiny wings. It is almost a parody of grotesque excess, which is perfect for my character. I’ll need to close up some gaps in the model but otherwise this should be really fun to work on.
There you have it! A new group a minis for a new chunk of my book. Like last time, painting these will likely last longer than the work on this chapter. I’ll probably keep working on this for the next five or so chapters or until I hit another notable section of the book.
Work is starting to get back to normal so I’m hoping I can start posting more regularly again. I don’t like posting once a week as it really only leaves room for updates. Hopefully, some time soon I can post another Upping Your Game article. I have a good one in mind. We’ll just have to see how the rest of the month goes!
It’s been a couple weeks since we have discussed my writing progress. The truth is, that’s because there hasn’t been much. Two weeks ago as I was finishing my first big chunk of editing in the third draft of my novel the worst case scenario happened: my computer crashed while saving and the file corrupted.
All is not lost, with my wife’s help and a few hours of work we managed to recover most of it by reverting to a previous version of the file. Over all it was a huge relief, but I still lost 2 days worth of editing. The weekend after was Halloween and the day I was going to sit edit that weekend I found out The boneless had been published (check out the blog post here). After such good news I felt like I had done enough for my career that weekend and I have been making similar excuses ever since.
The truth is, I hate redoing work and the idea of spending hours editing the same chapters just isn’t motivating. I’ve also finished my writing partners for this piece and, up until the crash, I felt like this step was complete.
So now I’m sitting here again today trying to motivate myself to get back to the grind stone. Luckily I found a hack for this. I’ve made a commitment to it.
I’ve joined a local writing critique circle that specializes in novels. Pretty soon I’ll be forced to keep up with my editing for else I’ll have nothing to show them! I work well with structure and I’m hoping this will give me the push I need to buckle back down. In a sense I’m trying to social engineer myself, which is the kind of crazy I do apparently.
On another note, you might be able to tell from the photo today that I have upped my game. My wife got me a lightbox and that pushed me to pull out my DSLR camera and take some proper pictures. The results varied but I think there is already a slight improvement. The lightbox has different lighting levels and I’m rusty with my camera so I have a lot to fine tune.
I have a bunch of time off coming up this week so I should have more to talk about soon. I already have a new writing partner picked out for the next section of the book so stay tuned!