Become a Fan
Intro: I believe fiction is at its best when most of the story is…well…non-fiction. When settings, characters, insights, feelings, and plot arcs parallel the real world is when the magic starts to happen for me. And although the real world account of how Losing Latitude came to be is probably not as exciting as the story itself, the odds of me ever completing the work I started in 2003 were much lower than Buck avoiding his pursuers, or Lilly discovering the motivations of her father.
I’m proud to say that despite the slim odds, Losing Latitude was completed. As for Buck and Lilly, well, you’re going to have to read the series to find out their fates.
My hope is that these Behind the Scenes articles will offer some insight for those of you who want to know more about me, more about the process of writing a novel, or more about self-publishing fiction (which is by all accounts a tricky business), and maybe even promote my work a little in the process.
Behind the Scenes: Production
So, I’ve decided to write a novel, now what? Start typing…duh.
I do most of my typing at work (one of the benefits of working third shift), and over the next couple weeks I managed to churn out the opening scene of my book. I liked it, and thought it was a good start.
Then I hit a wall.
I had so many characters and possible storylines I didn’t know what to do. I tried my best to press on, but it became overwhelming. I felt like I needed 600 pages to tell the story and I wasn’t sure I could do it.
So I quit.
I stopped writing for several months until I got really bored at work one night and decided to try it again. Over the next several weeks I probably wrote a total of 30-50 pages, and had planned the story out in my head to about 100. It still felt like a 600 page book, and worse yet, it seemed too cliché. Sure, I had my own spin on things to a degree, but not enough to carry a 600+ page book.
So I quit, again.
Fast forward another several months. It has now been a year since I first decided to write a book and I have somewhere between 30-50 of crap. Then I got an idea. I knew one of the characters was going to be forced to skip town. What if I told his story? Hmmmm… How hard could that be?
I would only have one main character to deal with instead of a dozen. His story probably wouldn’t even be big enough to make a novel. It would be more of a novella. A warm up for me before I wrote the real book.
I started writing all over again from scratch.
For those of you interested in my personal writing methodology. I can’t say this routine will be the same for every book, but when I was writing Losing Latitude typically I wrote about three pages a night, four days a week. I would always read over what I had written the day before. This allowed me to clean up the most glaring errors and get back into writing mode.
As for how I planned out the structure of the book, I really let the story tell itself. I knew the situation Buck was in, and I kind of knew where I wanted him to end up. All of the stuff in the middle I made up as I went along.
I chose to use the first person/journal point of view to tell Buck’s story mostly as a crutch. I knew that I didn’t know a whole lot about writing, so I figured if my writing really sucked I could blame it all on Buck. That’s not me who can’t form a simple sentence…that’s Buck. He’s just an Iowa farm boy, not an English professor.
To some degree it worked, in that it gave me enough confidence to keep writing. But writing in the first person, while giving great insight into the character telling the story, is very restricting. Once I had my confidence built up, there were lots of things I simply couldn’t do using 1st person POV. (By episode 5, I switch everything to 3rd person)
After a couple months, I had a solid 50 pages, and better yet, they didn’t suck. The only problem was that it was warming up outside and I was getting distracted from my writing. That’s when I decided to go to Honduras. In theory, I could get away from my distractions and write, really write, like, everyday. All I had to do was convince my wife to let me go.
I had three goals for my month long trip. 1) Go diving. I was 50/50 on going to college or becoming a dive instructor after high school. I told myself I could always do my diving stuff later if college didn’t work out. Well, I’d finished the college gig and figured I’d earned a chance to do what I really wanted to do all along…dive. 2) Take pictures. I’d been toying with the idea of doing some travel photography and figured this would be a good trip to get started. Remember, I didn’t really care how I made my money, so long as I could live on my sailboat. And taking pictures of shipwrecks and palm trees seemed like a pretty good job to me, so I gave it a shot. 3) Write my book. I planned on having a rough draft finished by the time I came home.
Heather had been to Honduras with me a few months earlier, and I think that eased her worries a little. Plus, I finally let her read what I had written so far (I don’t think she believed I was really writing a book before that). She thought the story was pretty good, and agreed to let me go.
Well, I did a ton of diving, took a few decent pictures, and I didn’t finish my book while I was in Honduras. But I did double the size of my manuscript, and I knew for the first time I was definitely going to finish it. Once I was home, I started working on it full time and after another year I’d turned my novella into a full-fledged novel. Or so I thought…