I read Mackenzie Davis's "How do YOU write?" and the questions asked in that text were very interesting for me. I think about writing a lot, and I think about how I'm going to write my next piece a lot. So the answer, for me, is haphazardly.
Much as I'd like to be self-deprecating and say "how do I write? Poorly," with a cheeky grin, I can't. Though I might not always think highly of my work, I can't be dishonest and ignore the legitimate question.
So, I've broken down my process into a few little pieces that I hope will answer some of Mackenzie's questions. Maybe it'll help me get passed writer's block on a few of my stories that I have languishing in the 'someday' pile. (Like my beloved child An Ocean Aflame)
Tell me your approach to these challenges, or to writing in general. Do you get inspiration for the prompts or do you find yourself writing about the first thing that came to mind?
Typically for community challenges, when I enter them they aren't a blip in my writing day. And I treat them with all due seriousness. Usually just the prompt is enough to get me going, like with Donna Fox's Community Story Challenge. I read the prompt and can fire off a continuation relatively quickly. But then that was only 600 or so words building off a strong foundation.
For this story, I sat back and I thought about all the information I had. We had two teacher's name, a setting, and the instruction to go have fun. So being the type of guy I am, I immediately thought 'haunted ruin and eldritch terrors' when I read that. So it's what I did.
I took the my personal love of that type of story and spun it into a fun piece of fiction continued by the Estimable Mackenzie fun fact. It was quick and relatively easy. But in truth, it also wasn't my story, I was sharing it so I didn't have to do all of the hard work to make it fit.
Since we were telling the story collaboratively, I got to sit back and react. Which, and I'm I don't need to tell you, is a lot easier than planning out what happens next. Instead I just got to see and respond.
But for the more official challenges, the ones with more fixed rules, the process changes.
For example, for the Myth Maker Challenge I had to be more proactive. It's not as though I could just respond to someone else's start, instead I had to be the initiator of the complete idea. So I stared at it, this was actually a difficult challenge and if I remember correctly, I submitted rather late.
What I did for this one, since I knew I wanted to throw my hat in on it, is completely different to how I approach wholly original works and collaborative ones. I took out my trusty notebook, fountain pen, and tiny handwriting, and stream of consciousness dumped for an hour.
Eventually I landed on the idea of telling this myth the way that they are traditionally told, through oral tradition. Great, I had that and it was a good foundation. Next I needed something uncommon, I wanted to do something that would stand out and to do one where I had never heard of a reason for the phenomenon.
I landed on the moon, now, there are a million stories about the moon so I had to be more specific. I didn't want to create a stand-in for Artemis or Tsukuyomi, so I settled on something that had fascinated me as a kid and a question I remembered asking as a wee tyke. Specifically, I wanted to know Where The Moon Goes.
But I didn't think that was enough on its own to tell a story. After all, ancient myths are full of human tragedy and drama, so I expanded it to be about a boy who loved the moon. Specifically, the girl in the moon, neatly age and gender swapping the old man in the moon trope.
Armed with a prompt, a time limit, a narrative structure, and a basic idea, I set to write it. And it didn't work. I could not get the words to flow so I got a different notebook and hand wrote the first few hundred words; after that the process got easier, I transcribed it to word and took off running.
Now, personally I think it's a good story and I'm very proud of it. In case you missed it, the link is three paragraphs up.
However, that's not the only process I use to write. Sometimes the kernel of an idea is all I really need. And that's how I wrote Shrouded Meetings, the story of a divine deer, a sentient mist, and a curious youth.
This story flowed out of me. I think I had it done in under a few weeks, edited and published. But that's not to say it was easy.
Shifting narrators is difficult, and I'll be honest I don't know how well I managed it. But I did my best to ensure that each of my three points of view was distinct, and demonstrated the nature of the different intelligences that experienced that shrouded world.
Written in almost a frenzy, Shrouded Meetings was a rare story for me. Not written for any specific challenge, but rather because I had the idea and thought it good enough to share.
Lastly, I want to talk about the stories that were not so easy. They had no prompt, nor did they come easily. Instead each of these stories took a long, long time to write, to find the words and the images that would bring my characters to life in the minds of my readers.
For these stories I had to approach them differently. Each of them started with the grain of an idea that I then nurtured for life. For The Dominion, I started that story while fabulously inebriated, the first thousand words flowed easily, afterwards the well ran dry. I sat on it and thought for weeks before writing another word, and even then it wasn't right.
Finally I came to a product that I'm very happy with and working to continue, but the same difficulties are still there. Each scene, every word is a struggle at the moment as I determine how the next phase of the story progresses. Once I make it to a certain point, whenever that it, it'll get easier. Then harder again in a repeating cycle until chapter two is finished.
So many decisions still to be made.
The Boy and The Partisan owe their beginnings to songs. For the former, Sixteen Tons, sung by Colm McGuiness and for the latter, The Partisan sung by Leonard Cohen. Each of these songs sparked in my brain, characters and scenes leaping to the forefront. But those alone aren't enough for a whole story.
Each one had to be teased out in my spare moments. A hundred words here, a thousand there, deleted and replaced and rewritten from scratch.
Whenever I got stuck, I would listen to the song again; close my eyes and focus on the lyrics, the flow, the emotions they evoked. Then I would try again, I must have had those same songs on repeat for days as I was in the trenches on these ones and every story is different. Every process.
And for some of them, usually the poetry, I essentially cry onto the page. I take the mass of feelings, usually negative, and pour it out then show it to you all. Those are the least fun, but they get some of the most rewards.
So, sitting here and thinking about how I write, I'm left with one conclusion. I write with my hands, on a keyboard or with a pen and paper. I hunt for inspiration and spend hours upon hours thinking about them. Pulling them apart in my head and on the page until I know how they tick and how best to present that to my reader.
Taking ideas out of the ether and forging them into a story is what writers do. In much the same way that visual artists pull imagery out of thin air and craft them into shapes and colours for us to see.
I can't explain how I write, if I could I would be a lot more help to a friend of mine who struggles to produce prose but can world build with the best of them. But I hope I've helped you understand the process just a little bit.
Now everyone go read everything Mackenzie has ever written! She's great.
About the Creator
Writing has been a hobby of mine for years, so I'm just thrilled to be here! As for me, I love writing, dogs, and travel (only 1 continent left! Australia-.-)
I hope you enjoy what you read and I can't wait to see your creations :)
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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