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Writing Process

When some people imagine a writer coming up with some great and wonderful work or what ever, they think we simply sit down and out the magic comes. 

Not even slightly close. 

First, there needs to be a subject, and there needs to be a reason. Such as: this is going to be a story about a guy that buys a painting. Great. Now, I as the writer need to answer a few questions. Who is it? Where/when are they? What is the reason? Why would anyone care? This is where the writer's block comes up, especially the last question. You as the writer might think that the answer to the question is amazing and super cool, but 6 out of 10 people that you talk to think it's dumb and you're an idiot for even coming up with it.

Many people will say, "It is impossible to know what any given person is going to like. So, the only way to move forward is just to do what you want and hope for the best. So, don't let 'is it good?' stop you from at least starting. Just make some squiggle marks on the page. I mean, all art is subjective, right?" 

This is not exactly correct. First, take a look at what is good not only at the current time, but also historically. Second, also consider that just because something is commonly found right now and seems to be popular does not mean that it is inherently good. While you should write what you like, you should also write what will actually sell in the future. Remember, societal tastes change. Genres become passe, and tropes get played out. Politics and philosophies in the story become superseded and made irrelevant. So, when you are writing think about how this will look in the future. Look ahead ten years, twenty years, fifty years. See if what you wrote will still exist, and if people will still be talking about it. While this is technically impossible, you can make an educated guess.

So, how do I write? Often my ideas come from watching or reading something and seeing some sort of inconsistency or break in logic in the world that I am experiencing. I then get on a private rant that often happens when I'm showering and I come up with a bunch of ideas that can often become a story. From there I flesh out the world and make connections between the ideas. If these cannot be made by me, then there is no story. Characters are then created and we're off. I have also used dreams as a starting point. In fact, my Dorian Astrapios series is actually based on a dream that I had in my senior year of grad school.

Next up is structuring the plot. If you don't have a plot there is no story. Things must change. The characters must change in some fashion. You need cause and effect, otherwise there is no plot and therefore no story. There are a lot of ways to do this. There is the "save the cat method". There is start at the end and back track. You can even write separate scenes and string them together; this one is my favorite thanks to how my mind works.

You see, all writers, and indeed all artists of all kinds, are just a bit screwed up. This is normal. Art actually comes out of pain and various sorts of illness. The skill comes in with training and practice. So, again, just put the squiggles on the page.

And yet, here we still stare at nothing.

Well that's depressing...and annoying.

The remedy is to go do something else. Go for a walk. Watch TV. Listen to music. Play with dog/cat/child. Take a shower. I have come up with amazing ideas by doing all of these things. It is a well known phenomenon that things not relating to the art you are trying to create actually foster its creation. Since I am a writer/author, I have note pads and apps on my phone that help me remember my ideas when I think of them just in case the idea sparks when I'm out and about.

I like to write sci-fi/fantasy because it is easy for my mind to come up stuff. This is a very saturated genre in regards to writers and the amount of shlock that comes out every year. The reason for this is, this genre is seemingly easy to write in. However, if that were true, then everything with "star" in the name would be as common and famous as anything else. There is a such thing as objectively good story telling, and most of what is out there, especially in our current time is objectively bad. But that's a soap box of itself. One of the ways to fix bad writing is to read things from other sources and writers and completely different genres. When I was writing the relationship between Dorian and Lena, I of course pulled on my experiences, but I also watched a lot of romance movies, read a couple of books about love, watched psychology videos about how people fall for each other, and then I worked it and reworked it. 

Which brings me to the next bit, until you have published the work, anything is changeable. The climactic fight at the end of Book 1 was written 6 times before I settled on the version that I liked. The best way that I have found to do this is to select the scene or part and get a completely new paper and just rewrite it with the basic idea of what happens.

Which reminds me, you have to understand the difference between "what happens" and "how it happens". With the what, everything is easily mapped out on an index card. It is logical, cold, and easy to understand. The how by contrast is more emotional. This contains more of what is actually read in the story. This is the dialogue, the descriptions, the narrations, and the impressions. If the what is neglected the story will feel like it is rambling or cliché. If the how is neglected the story will feel predictable, simplistic, or just boring. 

When I write, I first come up with the what because plot. This is where outlining comes in and where hard logic is needed. Next, as I actually write the thing and I start to fill in the how, I start to draw on my experiences and understanding of the given subject. Then, once I have everything roughed out, I leave it alone for a few weeks and then go back and read it to see if it makes sense and if there are any glaring errors. 

Editing is a touchy thing. I do not advise editing as you are writing, because it keeps you in your head and you can't really progress. However, I don't necessarily say no to it completely the way many of my colleagues would. If you don't like something and you have another idea, try it out. See what happens. If you misspell something, like I just did, and you notice, go fix it, like I just did. Otherwise, you will find it later. 

So, let's say that the story is written and you are basically happy with it. Now, you need someone to read it, especially if you are planning on having it published. These are called beta readers. They are invaluable. You are going to need at least 7 of them. You will need your story to be read by a conservative and a liberal, by a rich person and a poor person, by an educated person and someone who barely graduated school. Lastly, you will need someone who fits neither of these. The good news is, you can mix and match. Ask them to provide feedback and impressions. If you have a passage that no one understands, you need to fix it. If however, only one type gets it and the opposition doesn't then you know your target market and everything is fine. My epilogue in Book 1 was originally a slice of ancient history for the Fae, and nobody got it. So, I wrote something new, and it tested well. 

One last thing. Regarding offending people and controversy, don't worry about it. No matter what you write, or say, or do, you will offend someone. It is impossible to not offend someone. That does not mean that you should be hyperfocused on not triggering someone's issues or mincing your words. You as the writer/author are the one in charge. You do not need to be concerned about what some other person gets upset about. That being said, don't be a jerk. If what you write is obviously offensive and you want the type of person who it would offend to like you then you shouldn't write that. But, if you don't care then have at. It is their problem if they want to get upset or not. Here in the US you have the right to say and write basically whatever you want as long as it doesn't endanger the public good.


So, happy  writing, and I will see you later.

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