A New Approach to Writing

I’m over 30,000 words into my next book project now, and I’ve been taking a different approach this time through compared to almost all of my other efforts. This time, it’s mainly due to necessity. This book is the first of a planned trilogy that’s much more epic in scope than anything I’ve done to date. Because of that, it was necessary for me to come at the writing from a different angle. In many ways, that’s exciting to me. I don’t like writing things I’ve already written before. I like challenging myself and growing.

Most times when I sit down to write a book these days, I begin with a very broad idea of what happens in mind. Generally speaking, I’ll know where the book starts and where I want it to end, and then I make up the stuff in the middle as I go along. That’s always been the part that keeps me interested. In the past, it’s felt like if I already know exactly what’s going to happen in the book, there’s no need to actually write the book in the first place. The discovery process is a huge draw for me.

For this book, however, I wanted to have multiple viewpoints. (Something I haven’t tried since my . . . third book, I think it was. Weaver of Dreams.) I wanted those viewpoints to intersect, with different information available to different characters at different times, which allows the reader to know things the characters do not, and leads to more interesting interactions. One of the best experiences I’ve had as a consumer of stories came in one of the later Game of Thrones television episodes, where you’ve got characters you know and root for on both sides of a battle, and (due to the nature of Game of Thrones and how often characters would die on the show) you have no idea who might live and who might die. You might even have your favorite characters kill each other.

I found it riveting, and I wanted to bring that same sort of explosiveness to my writing. But how?

When I tried to write the book, it just wasn’t working. I couldn’t wrap my head around all the different things that had to happen, especially when they had to be coordinated in time and place. So in the end, I turned to writing a detailed outline. A chapter-by-chapter rundown of what happens when. Whose viewpoint it’s from, and what the basic events of that chapter would be. Even then, at such a macro level, it was tricky to get all the pieces to fit together the right way. Each character needed their own arc, and it all needed to mesh together. After longer than I’d like, I was done with the outline.

But I had no idea how things would work from there. Would I be bored, now that I’d plotted it all out?

Interestingly (to me, at least), that hasn’t been my experience at all. The great thing I’ve found about this approach is that I can really focus on each chapter at a time. Since each chapter only has four or five sentences describing what happens in it, I begin writing each with a brainstorming session. What details are missing from the plot? How about characterization? Where’s it happening? I flesh it all out and think of the chapter as a whole, and then I can dive in and begin writing it. In other words, there’s enough discovery left for me to do feel engaged, but I have the big picture down enough to know where the chapter fits in with the rest of the story. I’ve been churning through the chapters one after another, and each time I sit down to write, I know where I’m heading. It’s incredibly refreshing.

Of course, it’s also been a bit eye-opening. In 32,000 words, I’m through with . . . 6 chapters of text. I’ve also written 10,000 words of brainstorming back material to come up with that text. I have 41 chapters to go. If I continue writing at this general rate (5,333 words/chapter), then the final book will be . . . 250,000 words long. That’s over twice as long as my longest book I’ve written so far. About five times as long as some of the books I’ve finished. That’s a whole lotta book.

Then again, I’ve got plenty of books in the pipeline. Some getting sent out to editors, some we’re following up on. I’ve got the first draft of the Steampunk book (Codenamed SILVERADO) waiting for a revision at some point. In other words, I’ve got time. And so far, this feels like it’s working well. I’m having a good time, and for me right now, that’s all I can ask for.

Hopefully it keeps going this smoothly the whole time. At this rate, I’ll be done with the first draft 48 weeks from now. September 2020. We’ll see if that ends up being the case.

Wish me luck!


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