Now, Back to Business …

Lots of Questions
One of the things I’ve noticed since I won that pesky Gold Medal for my debut novel, Reichold Street: I’m now asked (usually by other writers, when they find out about the award) how I went about creating the book.

Did you do anything unique or special when you wrote? How, exactly, did you go about it? Did you create extensive review notes for all your characters? Did you make an outline? Did you follow any particular plot style?

The answer to all these questions is … no.

Oh, for a long time I tried to follow all the language rigors most teachers (who, by the way, were quite often not writers themselves) tried so hard to drum into me while I was in school all those years ago. Start with notes. Decide on a plot line. Make an outline.

The trouble is, it didn’t work (sorry, Mrs. Bliss).

My prose was always stilted and quite unbelievable. For a while, I tried making extensive Excel spreadsheets for each character. I would make detailed lists of their traits, physical descriptions, even notes about siblings and significant others.

I was doing this for every character in every story. It was far too tedious and the result was awful.

I finally found a Word-compatible piece of software called Scrivener – which, as recently as a few months ago I touted at the meeting of a local writers group I attend.

In truth, it was just another form of boring spreadsheet.

In Miami a few weeks ago I was asked once again by other writers: “Your characters are very well-developed … how do you go about writing?” and it occurred to me I had actually employed none of those approaches in crafting Reichold Street.

Oh, I admit I toyed with them … sort of. I plugged information into spreadsheets and also tried to coax software to help develop my storyline, instead of just letting the story happen.

But it was (as it has always seemed to be) a tedious, cumbersome and unwieldy process – one that always left me with, as you might imagine, predictably shitty results.

I realized it wasn’t until I let all that go and started relying on my intuition to tell me what was working in the story that Reichold Street started to come together.

Creative Spontaneity
Stephen King mentions in his fabulous book “On Writing” that “plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.” I’ve come to believe that’s true.

My writing style is really quite simple. I start with what I think is an intriguing (at least to me) what-if? question. Then I try to visualize what begins to happen.

Rather than going to the story, I let the story come to me. I see the surroundings; I hear the characters.

Then I try to translate what I see and hear in my mind into words on the page, and go forward from there.

Does it work? Some people seem to think so, but I guess reviews are one thing and people making purchases are quite another. From the proceeds so far I can afford lunch out once in a while. Not exactly world changing.

The months spent writing the book have started to seem like a breeze. Even the hard part of editing now seems easier in hindsight. I’ve discovered getting the word out is the hard part.

If you have the time, please check out the book trailer for “Reichold Street”

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6 Responses to “Now, Back to Business …”

  1. The One Best Storytelling Tip « Painting With Light Says:

    […] much more a follower of Stephen King’s method (see my earlier post). I start with an intriguing what-if? question, then try to visualize what happens. I let the story […]

    Like

  2. Jon Jefferson Says:

    I follow the same method as you do when I write. Even when I was in school I never could figure out the odd methods they were trying to foist on students for writing. For most of my life the main tool I always had on hand was a simple wire bound notebook. It was all I really needed for writing. I will say that the one bit of technology I have grown to like lately is an app called Evernote. This one is so close to having a physical notebook that the only real change is this is on a screen instead of in my hands.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. T. W. Dittmer Says:

    “I’ve discovered getting the word out is the hard part.”

    Indeed it is.

    Write on, Ron.

    Liked by 1 person

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