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Friday, February 06, 2009

Writer's Bootcamp 3

Greetings from Scranton, PA!!

Christopher arrived safely at our favorite Scranton hotel, The Radisson, Lackawanna Station. This is our 3rd year getting away together to write. This year's a little different in that we are coauthoring a new book series: The Berinfell Prophecies.

Tomorrow from noon to two, Christopher and I have an event at The Banshee. This fabulous gathering place has become to us what the "Bird and Baby" was to CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. We soak in the atmosphere and talk story.

A lot of people have asked us how do we coauthor a book? Aren't there conflicts? What about your writer's voice? Don't they clash? Won't people notice which parts you write and which parts Christopher writes?

Ultimately, I guess our amazing readers will have to decide how we do. So far, I can honestly say that I am having the most fun writing that I have ever had. We seldom if ever have conflict, and we've given each other cart blanche to edit each other's work without WITHOUT using the track changes feature. We're hoping in that way to develop "our" voice rather than me then him, etc.

Something else that we're trying is a process we call Layering.

This is nothing new to writing as it really is just several draft stages rolled into a more methodical approach. Here's what it looks like:

Layer 1: Go after the story--action, plot, go, go, go! We take our outline and just let the story roll on out there. We don't stop for flowery language; we don't think too hard about theme; and we let our characters grow and act and do without too much interference from the bumbling authors.

Layer 2: Character Focus--who are these people? Why are they doing what they are? Why should anyone care about them. The second time through the manuscript, we delve into the personalities and attributes of our main characters. They may be fine just the way they are. Or, they may be cardboard, 2D wannabees in need of major reality check!

Layer 3: Description--the reader needs to be immersed, not drowned, in the world we're creating. They need enough description for their imaginations to get their footing and do their thing. We go through line by line, cutting, tweaking, adding. We consider the mood of each scene and include descriptive details to reflect the emotion we are building. You don't need every detail about the forest, but that one vine that dangles from the tree like a noose...might be important.

Layer 4: Cool Stuff--I know, I need a better name for this one. But really this is the layer where we get crazy. We start weaving in a little foreshadowing. We throw in those righteous bits of dialogue that give the reader a clue to chew on. We start naming the cool swords and ancient caves and such. These are things that can really bog a writer down if you try too hard to get it right on the first draft. Seriously, I can waste a whole day just thinking of a character name--and the vitality and momentum of the scene I was working on just gets crushed. Best for last.

We'll see how it works out. So far. So good. March 13th is our deadline, and that's when Layers 5 thru 12 will occur...when our editors read our stuff and say, uh, you're serious, right?

Something Else to Consider: Catching the Gold Coins

At any time during this layering process, you may have brilliantly cool things pop into your head: a tidbit about the language the Elves will speak, a sweet bit of dialogue, a poignant bit of description for a character you've not even invented yet--whatever it is, you CANNOT afford to ignore them. These are "Gold Coins from Heaven," baby. You need to scoop them up, or like manna, it will be gone.

Yes, this interrupts the layering process. I use Scrivener or SuperNoteCards when I write, so I just pop open a new file, throw in the Gold Coin, label it as specifically as I can, and then dive back into the manuscript.


S. J. Deal said...

The layering approach sounds pretty cool... I've been kind of doing it that way in my story, but I didn't realize it until I read this post. Cool. :)

See you tomorrow. (Probably today when you read this.) :-)


Anonymous said...

Wow, those are really great tips. I admit, I HAVE spent whole days looking for a name when I really wanted to get on with the scene. The thing with me is I try to do ALL the layers at once and then end up getting nothing done and getting discouraged because I don't like it. I've thrown out my story more than once and right now I don't have anything to work on. I'm still searching for my plot!! But that layering thing will really help a lot. Thanks for the post, Sir Batson!!!

~ queenofnarnia

Robert Treskillard said...


So in the layering process, do you guys actually create the book and just keep editing in these details?

Or are the "layers" separate documents that just describe these things, and once all the "layer" documents are done, then you sit down to write?

Just trying to understand how this differs from the Snowflake method of Randy Ingermanson.



WayneThomasBatson said...

Hi, SJ, see you in a few hours.

And Narnia, that's definitely what we're trying to do...eliminate the time killers, the momentum buster, distraction moment. If I suddenly have a new character, one I know will need a cool, carefully chosen or created name, I just throw some stupid name down, put it in BOLD type and keep going. Later, I can go back, hit the bold points and find all the cool names I want. Chances are, at that point, I'll know that character better by the end anyway.

And Robert, I don't know Randy's snowflake approach, but I'm sure it's righteous. In the layering method, you definitely finish the manuscript and go back and edit the same original document with each new layer.

Though, your question did remind me of an important point. See the addition to the post.

Anonymous said...

I noted the addition. It seems I have mostly those little cool bits and no story! I really need to work on my plot...

~ queenofnarnia

ElizabethOfMena said...

I've heard of the snowflake method, but it always sounded sort of confusing to me... I'm sure it's great for some people, but I don't really understand it. The layering sounds like it would be really good though!!! And make the writing of my stories a LOT easier!!! Thanks Mr. Batson!! :)

May God guide your words.


Anonymous said...

I've been trying to write something and I think these will REALLY help me, although the most I've ever spent on a name was fifteen minutes (not that I'm particularly proud of them :P)
anyways thanks!