Gunlord’s Writing Method

Yet another fanfiction-writing related entry for you today, friends! It’s a bit more light-hearted and less critical. I’ll discuss my writing method!

The first thing I do is look at my overall story outline. That’s a file in my Wayward Son folder that goes through revisions constantly and is pretty short. Stuff gets added and deleted all the time, but it’s still a decent guide to how the story will progress. For reference, here’s how it looks at the moment I’m working on my present chapter (chapter 80):

Ch. 77: Seekers Continuing pilgrimage: 982 A.S, Renault is centuries old but realizes its not time to die yet. Pilgrims to Ilia, meets Canas before his death (Supports with Canas) (The Seeker of Knowledge), learns about Nino, few years later. Western Isles: Meets Bartre (maybe as a father with Karla), supports. (The Seeker of Strength) Meets Isadora (married to Harken) in Lycia, supports with her (The Seeker of Faith), also in Lycia, meets Jaffar and gives the letter to Nino (The Seeker of Love), after visiting Jaffar and Isadora, has a vision of Braddock standing in front of a red star in Bern and heads to a Synod in Etruria, preparing for his journey to Bern. Perhaps guides some morphs to a monastery.

Ch. 78: On his way to Bern, passes through Lycia, Araphen and meets Lucius. Has C-A supports helping him run an orphanage. Give Varlago’s letter to Ray and Lugh, Nino’s sons. โ€œDestiny can wait.โ€ (The Seeker of Salvation)

Ch. 79: Cont. 78, says goodbye to Lucius, meets the Deathrose again, maybe visit Diotica Abbey and Par Massino?

Ch. 80: Solves problems in Bern and becomes close to the royal family

 

You’ll notice a few things about this–the chapter descriptions are very brief and tenative, with lots of “maybe X happens?” in them. There also aren’t descriptions for the earlier chapters; usually a few months after I complete a chapter I remove it from my outline. On the other hand, there are brief “summaries” for chapters that have yet to be published, like chapter 80, which is being worked on now. I also have equally brief outlines for the next three chapters, but those are in my head to avoid too many spoilers ๐Ÿ˜‰

Most notable, however, is how greatly the chapter outline differs from the actual fic.ย  While I worked in all the support conversations from Fire Emblem 7 into chapter 77, I didn’t include Renault meeting with Nino; in fact I had her and Jaffar go MIA (as according to the game) some time before Renault managed to find her children. I also removed the plot line about Renault meeting some more of Nergal’s morphs, wandering around after the death of their master, and showing them to a monastery, as well as the plot point about Renault attending a Synod in Etruria and being sent to Bern as a part of it. All the plot points and revisions of Wayward Son that got cut out or reformed will be the subject of another post, though. ๐Ÿ˜‰

That is, I believe, a demonstration of a vague outline’s strengths. While it still gives me enough guidance to know where my story is going, what the chapters are supposed to be doing, and keep me from getting lost, it’s also flexible enough to give me a great deal of leeway in reorganizing my writing and removing (or adding) things as I see fit. ๐Ÿ˜€

So anyways, after consulting the fic outline as a whole, I get to start on the individual chapter itself. I make a rough chapter outline that usually looks like this example from chapter 79:

Renault says goodbye to Lucius

-X-

Renault visits Deathrose

-X-

Renault visits Par Massino

-X-

Renault visits Diotica Abbey

-X-

Renault visits Bern

Then I start filling in the scenes themselves. As you can see in all my chapters, they’re separated by the -X- symbol, so it’s already preorganized for me ๐Ÿ˜€ The actual process of writing is pretty much what you would imagine: I plop myself down in front of my laptop and type type type. I almost always start in order, i.e I never start working on the last section before the first. It’s harder for me to describe the actual process of writing, though (as in, how I actually fill in these scenes, the second by second decisions of how to make my characters speak, etc.). Maybe that will be a subject for another post, Sometimes when I’m really “feeling it” I can get 2000 words an hour written, but most of the time if I get distracted and such I can only get 1000 or so. For academic writing where I have to do a lot of citation and source consultation it’s about half of that. But for fanfiction where everything comes straight from my own imagination, I find I can write super quickly ๐Ÿ˜€

Now, in the process of writing, sometimes I diverge from the chapter outline quite a bit. Sometimes sections get merged, or chopped out completely, as is happening with the chapter I’m working on now. Again, as you’ll note if you compare the outline for chapter 79 to that of the actual chapter, I eventually cut out the “return to Diotica Abbey and Par Massino” bits because, as I mentioned in my last blog entry, I’m worried about my fic’s size at this point, and also because I couldn’t really figure out a way to incorporate them into the narrative in a way that made sense. I also moved the “Renault visits Bern” part to the next chapter, you’ll see what happens to it when I release #80. ๐Ÿ˜‰

That’s really it! XD Maybe next week I’ll make an entry about my favorite writing places and times. Until then, see ya around ๐Ÿ˜€

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4 comments

  1. This was really interesting to read! I’m honestly amazed that you can write so quickly (And a little jealous!) But that explains the 20-30k chapters.

    Props for making a Shulk joke

    1. Hehe, thanks ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. reveilles · · Reply

    Yes, my writing process is similar. I have a document with the high-level timeline / outline, including notable dates and events in between the chapters that I won’t actually write scenes for, but I might refer to in later scenes in the chapters. Next to a date, I might have “Chapter 35: Mary starts scheming with Aunt Rosamund to blackmail Rose, Anna and Bates have a secret, Matthew and Tom start hiring employees, Matthew is hit by a car”. This timeline document helps me to ensure continuity, to make sure I have an overall narrative that hangs together, and to keep my eyes on getting to the end game efficiently. (Looking at the continent.)

    Then, when I sit down to write an individual chapter, I work out the dramatic beats. I summarize which characters are in each scene and roughly what action and dialogue points I need to hit. Sometimes the dramatic beat is just “[Mary/Matthew/Anna/Bates scene in M/M’s bedroom]” and I know from context what that scene’s main conversation is going to be about. I might rearrange the dramatic beats around, add them, cut them, whatever. It lets me think about the pacing and flow and story logic. (Looking at the forest in this part of the continent.)

    Then I usually start writing the actual prose in which ever beat comes to me first, or seems like it’ll be the most interesting to write. Sometimes it’s the first beat in the chapter, sometimes it’s not. I write in a nonlinear fashion all the time, although my final product is usually linear. Often, when I write the most powerful confrontation scene in a chapter first, it’ll end up changing the dramatic beats around it, because the characters do whatever the heck they want to and they don’t always go where I expect them to. They say things that make me go “WTF?” and I have to follow them around before and after the scene to figure out what they meant and why. I’d rather follow the truth of their personalities than try to wedge them into a structure where they don’t fit. It makes the story a lot more alive and fascinating to me. I also couldn’t exactly say how I go from a dramatic beat to actual prose, but I ask myself questions like, “Where should I start the scene?” and “When am I going to know that the scene is finished?” Then it’s just a matter of connecting the dots logically through words and actions. When it’s flowing really well, it feels less like I’m writing and more like I’m just transcribing what I’m watching and listening to as the characters do their thing. Sometimes I start in the wrong place and have to scrap and start differently. Sometimes characters pop in or wander off unexpectedly. (Looking at the trees.)

    Then there’s wordsmithing, editing, crafting sentences, smoothly alternating sentence structures, mastering grammar, cleaning up punctuation, avoiding writerly tics, and rewording awkward phrases. (Looking at the individual leaves and branches on a single tree.)

    I’ve found that having a disciplined process from high level to tiny details helps me to keep up a regular publishing cadence and helps the blank page to be a lot less intimidating. But I don’t always follow it. Often, when I’m starting a new project and I’m really passionate about it, scenes will just flow out of me and there was never an outline or any dramatic beats to precede them. For really long marathon stories, though, I’ve learned that I can’t ride that initial burst of passion all the way through to the end, because it fades and at some point, writing the story feels a bit like work. Then, it helps to break the writing problem up into smaller, more manageable pieces. Doing that enables me to be disciplined, so I can keep up my momentum and actually *finish* the monster story.

    I write fiction a lot faster than I wrote my technical nonfiction, but I learned a ton about how to research a topic from my academic training and I’m glad that teaching myself about arcane topics is a lot easier now. I hope it gives my stories more of a ring of truth. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. That’s really cool! It seems your pre-writing organization of ‘dramatic beats’ is a little more detailed than my more general outline of scenes ๐Ÿ™‚

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