I’ve written about my process or lack of one when writing these posts. They sort of grow from an idea, a seed, a notion, a comment on something I’ve read. I rarely have a plan. I rarely have even an intro in mind and I definitely don’t have a finish in mind.
Mostly I write these 1000 word posts. In the past I’ve written some poetry, much of which I can reread without wincing too much. I’ve had goes at writing stories, technical articles and philosophical pieces of various lengths. I’ve never published any of this stuff, as I’ve never considered it good enough to be worth the effort. Or maybe I’m just lazy.
My success in keeping the blog going for over 250 posts has encouraged me. I’ve lately been writing something which I hope to make novel length, and I’ve learnt a few things.
When I thought about writing something novel length I researched the topic of novel writing a little. I found that a useful length for a novel is around a hundred thousand words. The number doesn’t scare me, as I’ve written around 250,000 words in this blog, admittedly spread over five years or so. If I write 1,000 words a day for one hundred days, that’ll do it. (Yeah right!)
Advice about novel writing is scary though. You have to a plot, a timeline, a list of characters, and so on. Yikes! Then I stumbled upon a method called the snowflake method. The author writes that you still need the plan, the character biographies, and spreadsheets! Spreadsheets for goodness sake! But his overall concept attracted me. It’s based on a fractal called the Koch snowflake curve.
The Koch curve is easy to draw. First you draw an equilateral triangle, then you divide each side into three. On the middle bit you construct and outwards facing triangle. Then you erase the middle thirds of the original triangle and bingo, you have a six pointed star. Then you repeat this process a few times and end up with a fuzzy six lobed figure – the start of the Koch curve. Since this is a fractal you could do this forever and produce a rather boring snowflake shape.
THAT process I could work with. Unfortunately when I read further on, as I said above, the author recommends spreadsheets, and character biographies and so on. I find that very off putting.
I had an idea, right from the start, for the main theme, the crux if you like. I had a main character. I had some of the development of the story, and some of the locations that the story took place in. And a scary fate, which led to the key story line. All good. But no supporting characters and no real way to go from premise to conclusion.
I decided to just go for it. While spreadsheets and lists sound like a good idea, I don’t think that I could work that way. So I just started.
I set up the main character in the prime location and I wrote his story. I filled in his back story, and suddenly he had a companion! I’m not too sure where she came from but the main character needed her. She knew the fate of the main character, and became close to him in spite of it. A potential reader, should the story ever get finished, is only given hints as to what that fate is.
In some sort of seismic story shift the main character became the son of the character facing the scary fate, and the father also acquired a partner. The son would also face the same fate but long in the future.
Now I had four characters needing a back story. Slowly but surely the female companion of the main character took over and became the main character. How did that happen? She quickly acquired a family who were mostly less important characters. Well, at the moment that’s true, but who knows? Certainly not me, and I’m writing the damn story!
The female main character had a female friend from the start. Well, from when she appeared that is. Originally the friend was going to serve as a brash contrast to the quietness of the female main character, but she swiftly mellowed to be just a bit more lively than the female main character. The friendship between the two girls became deeper and they became true BFFs. That meant that the friend had to come along with the now main character and soon developed her own story lines in parallel to her friend. She even gained a male partner of her own.
The main male character’s mother, the wife of the character who was the original main character also blossomed into a major character. She had to mentor the female main character and her origins became relevant so she also developed a story line.
Pause for thought. Oh yes, an additional theme running through the story is an unknown technology that enables a few things. If all goes well, it will remain a secondary theme and won’t crucially change any of the story line. It won’t be a magic bullet, and the characters will have to work hard to figure it out, like real technology. It won’t save any lives or change the characters into god like beings, if I have anything to do with it. But what do I know? I’m only writing the story. At the moment there only the merest hint of a link between the technology and the fate awaiting the main male characters.
So, at around 40,000 words, aiming for 100,000, where am I? Well, I started with one male character and an idea, but the girls have largely taken over, which is weird. They are strangely chaste – no sex scenes thank the little gods, but they are passionate – think Jane Austen. The girls outshine the boys in almost all departments. A gay couple appeared from nowhere. The BFF is poised for a major story thread. A couple of minor characters are begging for a story line, and I need to step back and review what I’ve done so far.
It’s been illuminating. It’s sort of like the snowflake method of perpetual refinement, and sort of like sheer random development, a mind dump put into words. I can only wonder where it will take me from here.