Tech talk

Paul suggested that I do a post on some of the working differences between my three books; approaches to each and the different challenges posed by the different formats. A very good idea I think, and so I’ll briefly cover some of my experiences below. Also, we’ve been doing some updating on our links page, so have a gander at that too, it should be more helpful than it was.

With Green Skies I mapped out chapter outlines and an overall story arc initially. A lot of background reading went into this book, and the notes that I prepared from that helped both Eric Uhlich (the artist) and I as we went forward with the story we wanted to tell. In hindsight, this was most helpful in establishing the setting and also in helping Eric with some of the visual elements. With my background reading in mind and my outline in hand, I then wrote a rough draft (editing it only once or twice myself) for a chapter, sent it on to Eric, and waited for his feedback. Based on his reactions, I would then do any re-writes necessary; most often this would involve changing certain elements to make them more graphic-friendly, though in my opinion Eric’s input as a reader was invaluable in shaping the story. I think at times I allowed myself to be too verbose—I wanted it to have a certain literary feel—and the book has been criticized for a lack of “tight” writing in places.

Randolph’s One Bedroom was fun, fun, fun to write. I wanted each story to be episodic and not to have any kind of development (character or story-wise) throughout the series, so I didn’t plan anything out concretely ahead of time. Instead, I planned each chapter on its own, wrote it, did a brief edit, and then moved on to the next chapter. Only once all of the stories were completed did I sit down to do the final read-throughs and edits. I tried to keep each story light with plenty of dialogue and action, though reviewers have found fault with the pacing. As far as the recurring characters go, I had personalities for them worked out ahead of time but allowed their reactions to each situation to develop as I wrote; e.g. what would a man like Dave do if faced with a problem like this? I think that approach allowed for the book’s naturalness to really take root, and as a writer I could feel the characters taking on lives of their own, which was a very enjoyable experience.

For Tomorrow, as the Crow Flies I didn’t hold anything back. I had a lot that I wanted to say in this book, and didn’t constrain myself with considerations for reader-ease or political correctness. The book is composed of extremely long paragraphs, no dialogue in the story sections, and often addresses very heavy subject matter. It is not a book to be taken lightly. That said, I think that by having the story sections and comments from “readers” included at the end of each chapter (which are essentially essays in monologue form), a balance was obtained and the readability of the book greatly enhanced. These sections give readers, or are at least intended to give readers, the chance to digest the chapter’s main content before proceeding. The main challenge that I faced here was in presenting each essay/monologue in such a way that its primary argument was put forward forcefully while still being able to fit in with the content of the other chapters as a whole. I aimed to communicate my entire system of thought, but to do so in parts, and so in order to achieve this I made detailed notes for each chapter ahead of time, and then later decided what order to present the chapters in. Even so, improvements could have been made, and I’m grateful to Paul Rogers for his ideas on which chapters to put in the climatic section (along with his other excellent tips, advice, and suggestions). Was I successful in this? I think so, though of course I’m sure that some will disagree with me.

To wrap things up, writing each book had its own procedure; each required different things of me, but each also shared certain similarities. It seems like an obvious and silly thing to say, but I think that the main advice I’d give to other writers from all this is that while the planning beforehand will be more or less important depending on the nature of the project, the need to be flexible and to give yourself room to breathe is a constant one. I’d love to hear from other writers what their experiences have been.

Next week, Paul j Rogers is back as he explores the writing journey.

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  1. Paul
    Posted October 1, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Always interesting to see how different people make it to the end of a project. I’ve gone from a detailed plan (last time) to not even knowing the next scene this time.

    So, after a graphic novel, episodic shorts and a book on philosophy, what’s next? Six months off probably sounds good…

  2. Andrew
    Posted October 2, 2011 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    You’ve got that right! :)

  3. Mark Porter
    Posted October 10, 2011 at 3:44 am | Permalink

    I am always intrigued by different approaches. Excellent post.

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