Updated: Mar 2, 2019
“Write about writing.” That’s what was suggested when I asked Erin Fong, what exactly should I write in a blog? “Write about writing.”
Okay. People like lists right? I’m gonna write a list, of sorts. FYI, it’s weird trying to break down how I write as a step-by-step process. I’ve never had to think about it that way.
An idea for a story forms through the details I see and hear about every day. I wrote “Road Maps” because I happened to notice the scars on a musician’s hands. I saw her life in all those scars. It played out for me like a movie. I took that idea home and let it sit for a few days before writing it down. That’s one example, but the same could be said of any story I’ve written. Some miniature thing sparks the “what if,” in my head. I toy with the idea for a week and replay the most improbable scenarios in my head. I’ll choose one, then find a suitable ending. The details might not be known, but the form is there. Once that’s done, I write out my first draft.
Generally, I prefer to write the majority of the piece by hand, with a pen, in a notebook. I enjoy the time it takes and the organic connection I feel to the story. The tendency to delete a previous sentence is erased. I find it all too easy to continuously shape the sentences of my first draft when I write by computer, rather than letting the story, the overall narrative, flow through me and onto the page. To constantly revise and edit on the fly disrupts the rhythm of the piece. I find my characters more believable if I don’t give them time to account for their actions. In “Heinoclock,” I only saw the character Jimmy, as a sad, scared man. I didn’t know his motivations until I put him to page. I knew what his outcome would be, but not how he got there. I had to treat it like a conversation. I let the character tell me about himself, then asked him the appropriate questions, allowing him to give me his quick and honest response. That’s how I treat every character.
Once the story is done, I’ll let it sit for a while. I’ll give it a month or more to stew. Then, I’ll sit down and type up the story from my notebook, doing an extensive round of edits. This is when I’ll chop phrases, rework characters, watch for any foreshadowing/ways to make it stronger. I won’t polish my characters, but I’ll alter actions and dialogue. Make everything more suitable for the character. It’s surprising because I’m not a detail-oriented person, but this is when I have the most fun. The story is there, so my major concern is out of the way. I’m free to test the boundaries of what the characters will, and will not, do. I’m able to strike the right balance of a realistic reaction to a fantastical event against how-fucking-cheesy-it’ll-sound. It’s tough.
Grammarly is the best thing I’ve ever been introduced to, and it’s the next step in my process. I’ll run my piece through the app, then read it again, correcting as I go.
Erin Fong gets the next crack at my piece. She gives me edits and suggestions. I’ll read through them, and we’ll spend the better part of two days arguing back and forth about which edits are necessary and which are not. I’ll then tweak the piece again.
Next, I’ll find a pair of outside eyes to look at it. Danny Campbell has been incredible in this respect. I’ll normally ask these outside eyes to look for any inconsistencies within the story. If there is a character out of place, tell me. If someone has a knife in their hand in one scene, yet it’s disappeared in the next, tell me. If, instead of calling a character Colin I call him Colon, tell me. I try to counteract these mental fuck-ups by reading the piece out loud to myself, like a robot, but it’s still not enough. I would like to thank any previous, and future, beta readers I’ve had.
Lastly, I do one final edit, then say fuck it. If it’s not good after all that, it never will be. There’s no point constantly re-working something to death, I find.
I hope this gives you some insight into my creative process.