August 12th 2019
"What Is The Most Difficult Part Of Your Artistic Process?"
There are a lot of different aspects to the writing process. This week, I answer the question of what I find the most difficult part of the artistic process, and how I work my way through it.
In a way, the answer to that question is one of the reasons that this post has gone out later in the day than I usually post. I was delayed in starting this post while I hashed out some writing issues.
In fact, as you read through this post, you’re going to see a little of how my artistic process works, and why I’ve has such a difficult time with one particular part of it.
What My Artistic Process Used To Look Like
(And Still Does To A Point)
When I first started writing, I had very little concept of how to build a plot from scratch.
It’s true. I used to do a lot of exploratory writing as I tried to figure out who my characters were and what kind of story I was trying to tell.
I wasted a lot of time, and energy, just trying to decide what I was actually going to write about. But as a result, I would very often learn a lot about the characters and what made them tick. It’s one reason I still use exploratory writing, and how I’ve ended up writing as many prequel stories to “Of Wolves & Men”.
This is also the method I use when tackling the writing of blog posts.
Some people have said that they think it’s crazy that I don’t plan ahead when writing these posts, but I have a simple answer for them.
This is the way I like to discover what I’m really thinking about the topic. And I find that it’s a lot more revealing when I can share that train of thought with others.
Planning A Novel Is Difficult
It’s true, despite what anyone else might say. There are so many aspects to consider when planning something as long as a novel.
Short stories can be hard enough to plan out, and it’s one of the reasons I never plan those stories in advance. At least, not for the first drafts.
For me a short story is very much driven by the main character, and their reactions to the events they interact with. In most cases you’re also only dealing with a single main plot, and at most one sub-plot.
Novels are a much different beast.
- You’re dealing with far more characters
- You really need to have one or main plot threads, and at least a couple of sub-plots in order to provide a well-rounded story.
- Every single plot and sub-plot has to be woven into a story that makes sense, and moves everything forward to a satisfying end.
- Sometimes characters throw you a curve-ball
Rebellion Is Rife!
I’m not even joking when I say that.
Take a look to the left, and you’ll see the culprit. He’s the reason why it’s taken me so long to get “Of Wolves & Men” finished.
When I first started writing “Of Wolves & Men” I actually had an idea of where things were going. I had an incident that would put Richard on a path to uncovering a killer, a clear idea of his resources, and what it would take to solve the crime.
And then I started writing, without an outline, because that’s what I’d always done.
Everything went according to plan, until it came to getting Richard put on the case. Then a couple of things happened:
- The characters in the story seemed flat and one dimensional, even though I thought I knew them well. BUT I kept writing, and ended up writing myself into a state where I couldn’t face writing the rest of the story.
- I went back to the scene that seemed to be the start of the trouble, and did a re-write.
- AND RICHARD QUIT!
That's When EVERYTHING Came Apart!
With Richard quitting his position with the Supernatural TaskForce (STF), he no longer had access to their resources, and the rest of my rough plan was left in tatters.
I was left howling in frustration for three days before I looked over the scene again, and realized that there really could only have been one outcome, and this was it.
So, I Changed My Artistic Process
I sat down and wrote out character profiles for what I saw as the main characters. I also did some digging into their mindsets and backgrounds (and yes, I even wrote a couple more short stories in the process), to figure out how they ticked.
And that’s when I discovered some interesting facts that really changed how I was looking at the story.
You see, I now had more than just a basic plot, I had:
- some characters that I knew well enough to write for
- some background to why certain things were happening
- a handful of sub-plot ideas that I wanted to develop
- and no idea how it was all going to work together…
And That's Where Things Are...
I’m literally stripping everything back to the bare bones, and trying to fashion a cohesive plot outline.
And that’s where my problem lies. I’ve discovered I’m not good at plotting longer stories. There is an art to weaving plots and sub-plots together into a well crafted tapestry of events that I really have to learn.
And part of that art is knowing when to let go of something you really loved. I have what used to be key scenes that I thought were well written, but since Richard quit the STF they no longer make any sense.
I used to know where Richard was going to get key information from, but without the resources of the STF, that’s no longer going to work.
So I’m left with trying to find creative ways for him to learn the key facts, put them together and reach the inevitable showdown.
Oh, and one major sub-plot that I decided (yesterday) had to be thrown out entirely, because it stopped making sense.
I’m slowly working my way I’m slowly mapping my way through the maze of plot ideas, and trying to figure out the route that will get me to the finish-line. But more importantly I’m learning how to outline properly, and just maybe becoming a novelist.
Get Updated On My Progress (And A Free Story)
Despite his rebellious streak, I really love writing the stories that Richard Parsons inspires, and want to share them.
I’m the first to admit that “Of Wolves & Men” is going to take a while to finish, let alone publish. So while you’re waiting, be sure to follow my newsletter to stay updated.
I’ll tell you how you can get a free copy of “Under A Hunter’s Moon” and send you semi-regular updates from my work, and that of fellow writers.
Check Out The Rest Of The Entries
Several authors take part in these weekly blog challenges from the “Open Book” group. So, if you want to see what they consider to be common traps for aspiring authors, click the link below.
About The Open Book Blog Hops
“Open Book” is a group of writers who get together each week to answer some of the questions that people pose about our work.
Each week they ask the writers to write a blog post on the same topic, and then share their post with each other’s readers.
It’s a great way to get some insights into how different writers attack the same challenges in different ways.