I have mentioned in prior posts that I’ve changed my writing process up a bit, for the better. Since this “new process” means nothing to you if I don’t tell you what I’m doing differently, I am opting to elaborate. I’ll do a few posts to show you what kind of shenanigans I’m up to now when I start a new book. Since I’m close to the final wrap ups for the first book of the new trilogy completely unrelated to Burnt Mountain, now is a good time to show you the madness.
For starters, a quickie cheat list of names as I move forward. I am including several links here that will take you away from my site should you choose to investigate them. This is probably a poor business model, but I don’t care. I’m happy to refer any other writers or aspiring writers to seek out the pros, because I don’t have anywhere near the volume of knowledge and experience these folks have. The next few posts are about my hybrid process that is a result of listening to the advice and experiences of these people and picking apart what worked for me.
Firstly, the person that turned me to these resources and many more, author, book coach, friend, and great cook, Joel D Canfield. His site is here.
SC = Shawn Coyne. Editor and the mind behind The Story Grid process which you can read ALL about here.
SP = Steven Pressfield. Screenwriter, author, and mentor to other writers in the trenches. His site is here. SC and SP work together.
AH = Art Holcomb. Screenwriter, author, and book coach. Gleaned some good tips from taking one of his courses. See his stuff here.
LB = Larry Brooks. Pulitzer winning journalist, author, and book coach. Avidly promotes using story structure as a writing process (process, not formula!) over pantsing here. LB and AH work together.
I have emailed with SC a few times and was one of the moderators on his forum for his website when the forum was running. I have done an 8-week online course and spoke on the phone with AH. I have worked with LB on a couple of occasions for story concept/premise analyses. And, I have worked with Joel as a book coach and mentor, still pester him from time to time on email and in the comments section of his website, and had the great privilege of meeting him and his family in person a few years ago when on a road trip to Wisconsin. I have not (yet) interacted with SP, but the common thread among these folks is still there: they’re all wicked nice.
OK, into the process I have adopted that is a mish-mash of things taught by the five men mentioned above. (I have done readings of books, posts, and seminars from female writers and other male writers, but I resonate best with the ones mentioned above which is why my focus is there).
As an editor, SC gets books after they’ve been written. He begins dissecting them from high level and drilling down to a microscopic level.
AH recommends starting the writing process by figuring out ALL of the details first before typing one word. Both he and SP break a story down into 3 parts, as all screenwriters do, Act I, Act II, Act III.
LB promotes knowing story structure first, knowing plot points and where they should fall in a story. He breaks stories down into percentages for locations in the story, but these still ultimately align with the 3-Act structure. Act I/Beginning Hook = the first 25%. Act II/Middle Build = 25-75%, and Act III/Ending Payoff = 75-100%. The details of first plot point, first pinch point (yes, they are different), point of no return which happens to be around 50%, second pinch point, etc. can be found on both his and Joel’s websites. Joel has a 12-sentences model that aligns with LB’s percentages.
For me, step 1 is scribbling down thoughts/ideas, literally scrawled notes in my phone, an email, a sticky note, a note card, whatever I have on hand. These sometimes get transferred to more legible versions and are typed up as things start to solidify. This is when I start to bash out the concept and premise. LB has written volumes on the differences between the two. They’re NOT the same.
Once I think I’m solidly onto something, I mimic the breakdown SC does of a story already written, except I begin building my new story FROM the high level. For me, it’s more like figuring out the basics of what I think I want to write. Sometimes I’ll also fill out Joel’s 12-sentences worksheets to make sure I have a solid grip on what is in my head.
Borrowed from SC’s website, this is his high-level view of Silence of the Lambs in what he calls a Foolscap Global Story Grid:
In the image above you can see how he starts breaking down the story. If you want the details around what each of the points for the Global Story parts mean, visit SC’s website. For me, I wanted to take that high level to get a general road map. Sort of like, if I want to make a cross-country drive across the US, let’s get a map of the entire US first.
For the new book, Forgotten Echoes, this is my high level view. Yes, I’ve blurred part of the image so there aren’t any spoilers.
Of course, I do mine in Excel. I’m a geek. What else did you expect? So I create the shell for this thing and print it out. I drag that piece of paper around with me for weeks and start scribbling on it in pencil. Once I have it sorted out, or think I do, I type it up so it’s nice and pretty, and I tape that sucker to the wall behind my laptop for quick reference.
In Part 2’s post, I’ll cover what I did next.