An Aspiring Writer's Blog Site

Gideon Plan: A Different Way of Writing

One of the hard parts of being a writer is coming up with a writing process that works for you. Some writers come up with a story outline and then write. Some create interesting characters, throw them into a bad situation, and then sees what happens. Me– I write in bursts.

Let me explain what a burst is. When I start out with a story, I only have a general idea of the plot, characters, and setting. Then I start doing research. I find pictures, books, movies, and other things that inspire me with settings, characters, and plot. When these little inspirations strike, I write them down. I call them bursts.

Bursts are usually short bits of prose that have no connection to a whole butt sounds like something that would be in the story. For instance, the burst might be a line of dialogue one of my characters say. It might be part of a situation that I see in my mind that I see unfolding in the story. The important part to understand is that bursts just kind of hang out there with no true context, however, they are often strong, fresh, and have a good honesty to them. When I get a whole bunch of them, I link them together and the next thing I know, I have a rough draft of a story. I then go back, fill in the details, flesh out areas that are a little lean, and ax things that don’t belong. This gives me my first draft.

I stumbled upon this process by accident. I think it may have evolved from my video game experience where I like to develop by iteration. Basically this means you take a good idea, add a little that makes it better, add a little bit more, add a little bit more and then eventually you got a great game. Some call this Miyamoto’s Box (of Nintendo fame). 

I’m attaching here an example of some bursts. This particular group has to do with Percy, one of Gideon’s Rangers. Percy is a British adventurer who recently joined the team when they were in Italy, just before the Civil War. Percy poses as a war correspondent for London’s The Times and travels freely between Union and Confederate lines. This allows him to spy for Gideon. A bit of an arrogant ass, he is highly trained and dangerous, and carries specialized equipment for his espionage missions. While behind lines, he uses the alias“Archibald Strickland.”

When I first wrote these bursts, they were not in order. I cleaned them up a little so you can read them easier. My bursts are not usually this easy to read and I’m about the only one who can decipher them.

How about you? What’s your writing process? I’d love to hear how you create!

Note: Thanks to Brian McNamara and Kathleen’s McCormick’s input on Percy!

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4 responses

  1. A couple of my friends who write have sent me a couple of messages regarding this article. This is what my friend Jim Inziello had to say (Jim’s a great video game FX artist by the way):

    “I’ve found that when I use that technique, I usually hurt my dialog between characters. This is because, while I’m trying to link together pieces of the story with interstitial prose, I find myself trying to push in dialog, that supports the big content. This causes the dialog to be kind of stale for me. I stopped doing that, and am now plotting out things as a base skeletal structure, while developing character backstory role playing bios. I do this so that the plot goes where I want it to go, and all I have to do is role play out what the various characters will say or do in that particular situation. (it’s my L.A.R.P.ing based technique.)”

    I found this fascinating and I hadn’t looked at it like that. Maybe bursts work well for me because my strength is dialogue. Most of my bursts, actually, ARE dialogue. Conflict and plot often come out when I write them.

    March 3, 2012 at 10:30 pm

  2. My friend Matt Laurence just completed an urban fantasy book that his agent is now shopping around. He had this to say:

    “Heya Dan! Looks nifty. It’s not the way I approach things (I can’t have pieces of prose lying around – it feels too messy and disjointed to me, and I always write a story from start to finish without jumping around), but I bet it’d be useful to others! That’s the thing about writing: Everyone has a different style, and it’s all about finding out what works best.”

    He adds that he does not use outlines. He just writes and sees where it goes–from start to finish. Wow. I could never do something like that. I used to, but what would happen is I would get stuck and couldn’t move forward and it only added to writer’s block. With bursts–they are all over. If I get stuck on some place in a story, or run dry in an area, I write about something else. Later, when I come back to it, its fresh again. For me, its really cut down writer’s block. Its almost non existent these days.

    I find other people’s writing process fascinating. Is there anyone else out there who would like to share?

    March 3, 2012 at 10:39 pm

  3. Hey Dan, interesting way of doing things! I usually write from start to finish myself and make the plot up as I go along (I normally have the next 1-two chapters vaguely formed in my mind, but sometimes not!). I do have an ideas book which I jot in as I think of new ideas though. So for example in the book you’ve read some of on my blog (In That Other Dimension) I’ve got ideas of new worlds or situations the characters might find themselves in, or new characters or even jokes I’ve come up with that might fit into the plot somewhere! I’ve found in the past though that its not a good idea to think of these things and then steer the book towards them, it’s kind of – if the plot goes there and it fits then use it! Otherwise I find I get pretty tenuous sections which lead to a target as opposed to them being interesting parts of the book in their own right. Some people may be better at thinking of ideas that will always fit though! Many of the things in my ideas book at the moment wont actually get written, but some will! Matty

    March 8, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    • Thanks for sharing Matty. It really is interesting to read how others write, isn’t it? I tried a couple of different ways back in the day. I think I started out writing start to finish, but if I became unsure what happened next, the writer’s block would be awful (depression, frustration, and anger sat in–terrible stuff). Someone suggested making an outline, but for me, that sucked the discovery right out of the story and writing no longer became any fun. I actually didn’t write much for probably five or six years until Bronze Raiders two years ago.

      Your comment about not letting your ideas steer the book’s plot unless the idea fits really made me think on how I handle this. For me (not everyone, just me), if I tell my muse that the idea doesn’t fit, the muse quits talking to me. What I do is just let the muse do whatever the hell it wants, write it down, and as the story begins to appear, I just piece together what goes and discard the rest. Once I got the story, I tell the muse it needs to be quiet for awhile while I edit. Admittedly, I kind of have an idea what will eventually go in and what won’t, but stranger things have happened and the muse stays happy and doesn’t feel edited or censored.

      Thanks for taking the time to read my post. I really was hoping you would!

      -Dan

      March 8, 2012 at 10:51 pm

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