Monday, July 15, 2013

The Writer's Process: Step One!

I know what you are thinking! You’re thinking, “Two blog posts within a week! When did hell freeze over?”

Well, I’ve had a bit of an idea that I’m excited about.  You see, I have just finished the second full draft of my third book in the Riddle in Stone series.  This one will probably be called “Blood in Snow” although I also like the title “A Terrible Time for a Holiday.”  No real reason why. It just sounds fun.

Anyway!  So I have the third book in fairly good shape, plot-wise.  I just need to let it sit for a couple months so I can read and edit it with fresh eyes.  While I’m letting book three sit, I want to start writing a new project. 

Now, I often have people asking me about the writing “process.” So what I want to do over the next few posts is to walk people through what is happening to me with this new project.  I want to go step-by-step over what I do when I start something new.  Make sense? 

For me, the first issue that arises when starting a new project is selecting an idea.

You see, I have TONS of ideas for books and television shows and off-Broadway theatre…and commercials! I have TONS of ideas for commercials, most of them very Monty Python-esque and not at all fit for American daytime television. 

The problem that I often have is that I start one project and then get distracted by an idea for another project before the first one is completed.  So I really need to select a project that’ll be captivating enough for me to finish. 

Further, it has to be somewhat developed in my head.  I don’t need to know the entire plot.  In fact, I prefer not to know how things are going to end.  That way I look forward to finding out what happens.  But I do need to feel like I know the main characters relatively well. I need to be able to hear their voices and feel their attitudes.

How do I get to that point?

I don’t know what other authors do; but I daydream—A LOT.  During faculty meetings, on the treadmill, when my boys are prattling on about stuff.  I tend to be in my own little world most of the time.  So I tend to toy with characters and their backgrounds and their perspectives on the world in my head.

Once I get a fairly good feel for who my main characters are, I think of a situation that creates some sort of ongoing conflict.  And this is really important!  The situation has to be rife with possibilities. It needs to be able to spin off into a hundred different ways; otherwise, I’m going to get bored. So will the reader. 

For example, I’ve often thought about having an entire novel set during one night in a bar.  The concept interests me.  But I don’t have enough skill as a writer to pull that off.  I need more outlets for possible action and reaction.  I need a broader concept and more room to run, creatively speaking.

So… this is what I have so far… 

For my main character, I have a newly-minted Ph.D. in special education, young, bright-eyed, energetic, wanting to change the world “one child at a time.”  Can you picture him?  The kind of person who wants to sing Kumbaya and cheer everybody on.

For the situation, I have the world’s worst university.  People are hopelessly dysfunctional…to the point of pulling practical jokes on each other that could turn deadly. 

I’m going to try to put the two together.  I don’t know what’ll happen.  But I think there’s a story there.

So now I go off and write a bit!


  1. I do the same thing when I get a new idea, or while I'm writing a story. I don't outline, so I let things come to me when they want to. I don't force ideas to come, which may be one reason why I'm a slow writer. That, and laziness too. lol! I've had an idea for a new story brewing in my head for a month now and have only written 750 words. I should have more written because I have scene ideas floating around my noggin, but I've been lazy to write them down, or maybe it's just me letting the idea age a bit to where I have a better idea as to where I'm going to go with this new story before I put any kind of work into it. Or I'm lazy.

    One setback that I'm having in getting this thing going is that the story is going to be historical, and again involve vampires, but in order to get the historical near correct as I can or want to get, I need to research. And I can't do the research I need because of the library. They have a local history room (my story is going to be set in my home town in the 1920's) located in the upstairs of the library (19th century brick home converted into a library in the '20's) and I cannot go up there without a chaperone, and the one person they have to do it is gone until the middle of next month. And even more frustrating, the upstairs is only open one day for two hours. Not near enough time for me to look through their haphazard way of which they have all of their historical papers and photos and such stored up there. I've told them that I need to go up there to research for my story and they don't seem to give a rip. They said they may possibly be able to find someone to babysit (my word, not theirs) me so I can get up there, but I haven't heard from them. Sigh. I may have to make another trip there and ask them if they've found anyone to sit with me so I can do my research.

    Anyway, yeah, maybe it isn't so much me being lazy as to I'm afraid to get into this story without having some historical references to go by, because if I get something wrong historical-wise, it could affect the story, somehow, and then lead to a rewrite. Or something. And I'm rambling. And ranting. That is all.

    1. Yeah, Historical Fiction sounds like a great deal of work. I would love to do something in that genre, but I just don't have time to do all the research, like you said. Of course, I am lazy.

      I mean, fantasy takes some degree of research. I had to find out what kinds of evergreens make horses sick and so forth. But that's just a google search...not research.

      I give you a lot of credit, KE. I don't think I could ever learn enough to do historical fiction.

  2. Ooo! You sound very excited about this new project.

    I love your work, so I'm very curious to see what you come out with, Robert. :D Will be following this (via your blog) as things develop.

  3. Getting excited is easy. It's maintaining the enthusiasm that is difficult for me. But we'll see how this goes.