The Writing Process: Planning

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 4.37.05 AMToday I stumbled on a beautiful thing at Barnes and Noble: the 10th anniversary edition of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, bound in sturdy hardcover with a sweet jacket, and nice and thick with “bonus features”. It’s really heartening to see books get the Bluray treatment these days…

What I love about these bonus features is that authors are starting to include extra content for the readers who love them. John Green’s Looking for Alaska got this same treatment, and my eyes ate every word of it. Query letters, excerpts from the first draft, outline notes, etc…

So, while I cling for dear life on this hope that I’ll be a published author one day, I thought I’d start a little series about my process and how words go from my head to a piece of paper.

I want to say that for me, they don’t go directly to the printed paper. They pass through several filters, the first of which is usually a notebook. It starts with an idea, either for a scene or a character or a book. Positive Pizza, for example, started because I couldn’t shake this image of a guy a little younger than me opening a letter from his girlfriend and basically crying his eyes out. I gave the guy a name and then I had to know what was in this letter. So I wrote in a notebook: Dave opens letter from Regina. But for the contents of that letter to mean anything, I had to backtrack to the night Dave and Regina first met. Dave meets Regina after frat party. Everything in between and after the letter went onto a whole bunch of note cards. So I constructed thirty broken sentences on thirty note cards, and in the end what I had was a jigsaw puzzle. I spread them all out on my floor and the question became “What order do these scenes need to go in?”

The Carver started with a character idea: Peter Pan and Pinocchio grow up. Would you believe that idea came from my Masters thesis? After writing a 50-page analysis on these “boys who never grow up”, I decided to challenge this concept: let’s make them grow up and see what happens. It was only really intended as a short story, but it was my good friend Alicia who said, “I would love to read more!” As it turned out, I really wanted to write more, so soon I had more note cards everywhere. Alice vanishes from New York. Hansel discovers the magic mirror. The fairy speaks with Quasimodo. Etc etc!

I guess ideas can come from anywhere. A Masters thesis, a video game (Kingdom Hearts has actually been an enormous source of inspiration, especially the music!), even somebody’s face (remember Regina? She looks exactly like Zooey Deschanel.) But I don’t think any of these things would be developing or even have made it on paper if I hadn’t scribbled notes first. If these ever turn into books, let that be known!

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