Monday, December 17, 2012

Plan with the head, write with the heart.

I was feeling at loose ends because I wasn't writing anything.  It's become a habit I guess.

I tracked down some of my earlier writings in boxes in the garage.  I've lost the fifth book entirely, and I apparently haven't had manuscript versions of the published novels -- maybe ever.  You'd think I'd have been less cavalier about something so important.

I didn't see the internet coming.

Anyway, I started reading the fourth book.  The original title was BLOODSTONE, which I changed when I saw that there were several other books with that title.  Now, I don't care.  I'll use that title because it's the right title for the book.

Anyway, I can see why this book never went anywhere.  The back story and history are hopelessly muddled, contradictory.  It just tries to do too much, too many disparate elements that don't fit together.  Trying to make them fit together made the writing itself constipated.

But there was a thread of narrative there that could be redeemed, and I proceeded last night to put the first 20% of it into my Word program.  It's a strange combination of underwritten and overwritten.

Whenever I describe WHAT the characters are doing, it actually is pretty smooth if simplistic and uninspired writing.  Whenever I try to explain WHY things are happening, it's hopelessly muddled.

The funny thing about the basic narrative is that it's Fantasy 101..

First chapter, some mysterious strangers show up and drop the Bloodstone into the hero's hands.  Literally.

Second chapter, hero's girlfriend is kidnapped.

Third chapter, elves and dwarves show up at his doorstep and take him away on an adventure.

Fourth Chapter, they travel a long hard road and fight monsters.

And so on. 

 About 50% of the story could be saved -- but the plot and characters need to be fleshed out.

 The other interesting thing is how many of the themes I'm still using today.  That magic takes the place of technology, the idea of darkness spreading over the land, the use of magic depleting the users, and so on.

I realized that most of my fantasy writings can easily be adapted into the world of The Reluctant Wizard.  The "Lore" world, I'm calling it.

Funny thing is, in The Reluctant Wizard the main character is an outcast because he uses magic instead of technology.  In Bloodstone,  the main character is an outcast because he uses technology instead of magic.  Same basic world, but different response.  Can I just make this different places within the same world?  At different eras?

All that would have to be worked out, placed in a framework.

I'm apparently incredibly prolific -- no kidding, right?  But it' scary to think how much stuff I could have written in the last thirty years if I'd been in this mode the whole time.  

So what have I learned?

Three lessons from the latest bout of writing.

1.) Having a framework, and well-thought out backstory before I start makes everything else work.

2.) Have a real liking and feeling for the main characters is essential.  Plan with the head, write with the heart.

3.) Once I have the basic framework, writing the actual plot fast is the best way to keep narrative drive.

What have I learned about work habits?

1.) Technology makes everything easier -- possible.

2.) I like writing first drafts, I hate planning and rewriting.  But planning is easier than rewriting so that's what I should do more of.

3.) Write about whatever strikes me -- write until I'm done.  Take a break.  Come back later and do the same thing.  Keep doing it until nothing else comes.

4.) Sit with a kernel of an idea, write for at least 10 minutes.  If still struggling, quit. If not, keep writing.

5.) Be free and easy with first draft -- whatever feels right, do it, even if it technically is a no no.  Can always change it later, but it's hard to reproduce that original inspiration.

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