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Process

Hugh Todd

Since I’ve started getting into writing seriously, I’ve read a ton of book, articles, interviews, etc. about the writing process. My conclusion is: everyone’s writing process is different! I know, big revelation, huh?

I first create a rough outline, including characters, world (less or more detailed depending on how much worldbuilding is required) and general key plot points. I then spend some time going into a lot of detail about the first section/act/whatever so that I know where I’m going for a while. I generally know where I’m going in the middle part and have a pretty clear notion of where I want everyone to end up by the end of the book before I begin writing at all. Then I begin. I sometimes plan generalities about what I want characters to say, but I always leave the actual words to the moment. To my mind, it makes it a bit more authentic if I make up the words they say at the moment, but maybe that’s an affectation.

I tend to wake up in the morning, go straight to my workstation (a Surface Pro tablet, with the internet turned off. More about that in some future post) and start writing. Depending on when I run out of steam, or when lunch rolls around, I eat and/or take a shower. For me, the shower is my creative haven. It is the best possible place to think up new pieces to add to the current section and figure out where I want the next part to go. If I’m stuck, the shower will almost always fix it. During my first novel, at one point I was taking three showers a day. Not ideal, but it got the job done. Sometimes driving can help as well, especially if the radio is off. I’ve come up with some great ideas while driving, but it’s not nearly as consistent as the shower.

I would say what the hard parts are, but so far after 1 and 1/4 books, all the parts seem like the hardest part when I’m in the middle of them. Particularly difficult for me is the first 20% and the middle  20%. Once I get to about 60% on the first novel it got a lot easier.

I’ve noticed that sometimes when I’ve taken some time off, or I’m just beginning to write something, it feels irritating to even begin writing. To me, it feels like how your voice sounds like when you hear a recording of it: it sounds fake, harsh and very contrived. Once I can get past that, writing comes more easily.

When I first began, I thought coming up with ideas would be a hard part of the whole thing, but after a few years, I have more ideas than I could write in a decade. It seems to me that once you start exercising the idea engine part of your brain, it gets better at it and starts generating more than you can actually follow through with. Getting it down on the screen is much harder.

“I hate writing, I love having written.” — attributed to Dorothy Parker.

This is definitely true for me. I have heard of other writers being driven and I’m certainly motivated to write, but not by some internal message needing to get out or some maniacal need. For me, I need to make myself put down the internet, or a video game or a good book and sit down and write. However, writing is not only drudgery or I guess nobody would do it at all. I imagine it will feel really fulfilling to have an agent or publisher read my work someday and decide its worth getting out there, but even now, I feel energized by (what I think are ) good ideas. And writing is a whole lot better job than a lot of others I’ve done over the years. One piece, in particular, that I appreciate is the focus of only working on one or two projects at a time. As opposed to my years as a project manager, when I was constantly juggling and prioritizing dozens.

Of course, this whole discussion should be taken with a grain of salt. I’m only through the beginning of my second novel. I plan to write one a year, so I guess we will see what I think of process in five or so years from now. I may have an entirely different perspective.

Young Adult

Hugh Todd

I was once a young adult.

I remember being in 5th grade and having finished the 8th grade reading textbook (after having plowed through the others) in the first few weeks of school. By the time I got to 7th grade, I had read lots of different things, but had no particular favorites, until a friend lent me “A Spell for Chameleon” by Piers Anthony. This began my life-long love affair with fantasy and science fiction.

At the time, Piers Anthony’s series of Xanth novels was not classified “Young Adult” as there was no such category. In fact, I rather think that many libraries or bookstores workers thought that all of science fiction or fantasy (not the ones with sex, of course!) were for young adults. But, maybe I’m just reading my own geeky disaffected youth into that. Either way, a number of books that were favorites, for whatever reason, in my youth, I would now classify as Young Adult. They captured my interest, my imagination and drove me to look for more of the same.

Looking back, I find that some of them don’t hold up quite as well to my current tastes. Sometimes the characters are a bit simplistic. For example, I remember the moment when I read a Piers Anthony novel, maybe somewhere around my 30th and realized that every single hero of his, male or female, human or otherwise, solved problems in the same manner. Sometimes the plots were a little too melodramatic, or details seemed to come from the writer’s unconscious unedited (and not in the good way). For example, I collected most of Michael Moorcock’s works, fascinated with his endless creativity. I still feel that some of his works are meaningful, but many of them feel like they have lots of style and not much substance. That being said, they got me started reading and the fact that I prefer something different now is predicated on the fact that I read those novels (and enjoyed them) way back when. There is something to be said for the “At least they are reading something…” statement.

I don’t know whether many of the books I read as a “young adult” would be classified in that category today, but my tastes have definitely changed; I like to think they’ve evolved. Now I look for works that are original, have good worldbuilding and interesting characters, but also have layers that get me to think and feel beyond the trappings of the plot and the world the author created. I’ve been reading a fair amount of young adult novels over the last four or five years and I’ve come to the conclusion that, like other genres, there are a whole lot of average, well crafted works with only a few standout excellent ones. To that end, here is a list of some that I like, some that I love and some that are amazing in any genre. I’m sure there are more out there that I haven’t read yet! Feel free to add or disagree with my list in the comments.

Amazing

Classic

Best of the Rest 

  • Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
  • Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
  • Pathfinder and Mithermage Series by Orson Scott Card

First Post!

Hugh Todd

Well, here we are (not again). While I have a fair amount of experience in a lot of different areas, blogging is not one of them. For those of you that read a number of blogs, and have probably been doing so for years (as I have) this will probably be a less awesome process of me figuring out what I like to write about, what people might be interested in hearing about and whether this experiment will work out for either of us. But let’s take that plunge together!

When this hits my front page, I should also have an about page, in case you don’t know me (pretty doubtful for a while, my guess). But, here’s an update on where I am and what I’m doing. I live in Orange County, where I’ve lived for the past eleven years, or so. I’m currently a writer and its my intention to make a living writing novels. I’ve sold a few short stories, one of which can be found here. I’m on the verge (August?) of starting to try and sell my first novel, Changewinter. I also have a good beginning on my second novel (unconnected to the first), tentatively titled (wow, that’s a lot of ‘T’s!) Jack’s Fist.

So far, these few things have kept me fairly busy. And hopefully, this new blog will bump that up a bit. Also, in a few weeks, I’m off to a vacation in the Galapagos, a place I never imagined (before a few months ago) that I would ever go. Four years ago, I never would have guessed I would be trying to start a career as a novelist. I guess that just goes to show you… something.

Maybe, I’ll end this first post with a bit of advice. It’s good to have a plan: a plan for what you want to do next in your life or your career. It’s good to extend that plan out as far as five or even ten years. Spend some time thinking about what you might be doing then, what it might be like to live then. But, don’t get married to that plan. I can almost guarantee something odd (good, bad, different) will come up between now and the fruition of that plan that will dramatically change your direction. I’m a big proponent of change. It keeps you thinking, feeling and moving. In my humble opinion, if you’ve reached the total and complete fruition of that five year plan, you are probably doing something wrong.

Hopefully future posts won’t be so philosophy heavy!