The Process, Part One

Over the next few posts, I want to talk about my writing process. The system by which an idea becomes a story is often obscure even to myself, and I think going through that process here might be illuminating (to me and perhaps even to both of you). If nothing else, it should be worthwhile as an exercise in ordering my thoughts on the subject.

Generally speaking, I write in sudden fits. That is, an idea strikes — whether new, old or suggested by others — and I delve immediately into the process of creating prose. I often ruminate on a story idea while out on a run, though not always, but in either case what meets paper is usually immediate, unpracticed and visceral. For very short works, I start and finish in one sitting. The result is sometimes sublime, sometimes terrible, and most often mediocre.

Long and/or more complex works are usually the result of extended brainstorming sessions. I might think about a story idea for a week or a year before it finally coalesces or I feel ready to write it. In these cases I am much more likely to have written outlines an notes, have fiddled with very rough early drafts, and/or explored the idea in different media. However, it still happens that the writing is done in a marathon of frantic typing, even if stretched over a few days or even a month. It seems that measured, precise writing is not my strong suit.

That’s the usual way I do it, from a hind sight perspective. The mere fact that I am looking at it now, in the midst of the process, is likely only to bias the experiment. Since I am not a physicist and there is no cat in the box, that’s an acceptable outcome. I am not trying to prove my process so much as explore it, perhaps ultimately better understand it and thereby better it.

The first thing I need to begin is an idea. One came to me while I was running earlier today, and while it is a little obvious and potentially cliched, I like it well enough that in absence of a better idea, it will do to get the ball rolling. In the next segment, I will unpack the idea and explain how I would go about breaking it down into an actual story. In the meantime, allow me to leave you with the story idea as it sits fully formed in my mind:

In response to the impending Apocalypse, so-called Sleeper Stations are established, where millions are placed into hibernation until it is time to emerge and retake the world. In addition to the Sleeping, a population of Sandmen is assigned to watch over the Sleepers. Four generations later, a weary administrative class is trying to maintain a sparse yet utopian society while watching outside for signs of civilization. Throughout it all, the Sandmen class is forced o suffer hard labor and disgusting working conditions. Despite all the difficulty, the population is well fed. It is the protagonist that asks the question, where does the meat come from?

See you next time where I discuss the importance of picking the right plot, choosing the right point of view character, and determining the stakes. Thanks again for reading and don’t be shy about sharing.

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