I have no idea where I am going with today’s blog. When we last left our hero (that’s me) he was perplexed. He had a great story idea that he has been nurturing in his head for several months now. He has even begun doing a little research and note-taking. Now, it is time to begin. But wait! As we learned in episode 1 (my last blog) our hero discovered that he had a great story, but not so much meat to hang on it. He was a little stuck as to how to proceed. As one fellow blogger advised, the best way to handle blockage is to harness up the mule and plow through it—simply sit down and start typing…or keyboarding or entering—or whatever it’s call today.
So, that is what I did. Surprisingly, I went right for the sex. That is not like me. Not that I am not a sexy hero or that I am a disinterested bystander. No, I’m okay in that department despite my age. But I am a bit old fashioned and for me to immediately take on writing about even one transparent shade of grey, well, that is unusual. But a boyhood memory came to mind and I went with it. I bet you want to know more. No can do. Maybe later.
I wrote about 1200 words and it is enough for the first chapter. I managed to introduce two main characters (for now) who are seniors in high school. I established a timetable (1943) and a location (a small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland). Hold all those elements for a moment.
I have been so busy with this new project that I have not produced a new blog for several days…again, not like me. And, I am so side-tracked that I have no idea what to blog about…yep, again not like me. So tonight I sez to myself, “self…why don’t you keep a blog diary about writing this new book!” What a great idea. Wow, my hero…oh, that’s me.
Now, back to those elements you were left holding. At this point I have decided to tell you about my writing process. First thing you should know is that I have no process. While I am a very organized person, I am not prone to do a lot of outlining prep when I’m writing. Yes, I have put down the basic plot lines of my new project, but I will not be doing an outline. I take one chapter at a time. I think about what it is I have to do in that chapter and then—sometimes as I am even writing it—I figure out HOW I’m going to do it. This is an exciting process because I never know exactly where I am going. Some writers, I am sure, would be scared with this method. I like it. It makes me and my story more spontaneous. Spontaneous is good. I write my blog pretty much the same way. In fact, I have no idea what will be discussed in the very next paragraph. To figure that out I have to stop and collect my thoughts, so hold on a minute.
Okay, I’m off and running again. My project is an historical novel. It takes place in a real town and will include some real historical events. I am very fussy about these things. While the fictional parts of the book can go anywhere they want, I insist that my descriptions of actual events and places are accurate. This is when the writing stops and a lot of factual prep and phone calls begin. See, I do prep, but it is selective.
I needed to put my two characters in high school. What high school? I located one in the town where the story takes place, but it wasn’t built until 1966. I decided to make up my own high school. I need to name it. To Google I go. “Names of famous people from Maryland” is the topic I enter. Eventually, I decide on a War of 1812 naval hero, Stephen Decatur. As a bonus, he’s from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. And, hey, “Decatur High” sounds good, doesn’t it?
Today, however, after talking with a local librarian, I learn the actual name of the high school that students attended in the 1940’s. In fact, there were two high schools—one for whites and one for blacks. The one I needed is still standing and currently housing the main offices of the county’s board of education. So I write Decatur out of the story and replace it with the actual school. I can even describe the building if I want because there are both a satellite and a ground view available on the Internet. What a concept.
Next, I have to establish the environment. So it’s back to maps and pictures and reading about the area. I will let you know that I have been to this location so I am at least a little familiar with it. Oh, I was there over 50 years ago so what I remember isn’t much and what is there today may or may not have existed in the 1940’s. Needless to say, I can make certain generalities, but the details…well, the details have to be mined, pick-axed and polished. That is how I spend the rest of the day.
I have one chapter draft complete. I am pleased. It has a good sexy tease in the first paragraph, sets up two main characters—more on them in chapter two—and readers will have a good lay of the land and the lifestyle on it.
I am not sure I will continue blogging about the actual writing of my book, but if it makes sense and seems interesting to some of you, then maybe I will continue. I am not looking for a critique of my process. I need to stress that I write because it is fun. Let me emphasize that—-F U N. If this gets too much like formal school and professional writers and plot pickers start heaving seriousness at me…well, I’m dead in the keyboard. My hero—that’s me again—will go down in flames and there will be no sequel. Stay tuned!
Marc Kuhn is the author of three books. Recently published is an adult historical novel, THE POPE’S STONE. The other two books are for children: NEVER GOOSE A MOOSE…And a bunch of other things you should never do!; and ABOUT A FARM, lessons for life regardless of where you live.
All three books are available at amazon.com and each has its own .com website under its title.