Notes From The Wordiverse: Writing Process Blog Hop

A friend of mine, Tonia Marie Harris, asked me to participate in a blog hop where each writer describes their writing process. It didn’t take long for me to agree. Tonia has been a great supporter of mine and I recommend you check out her blog. You can find her writing process post here: http://passionfind.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/notes-from-the-wordiverse/

I find it interesting to see how each different writer goes about creating their particular brand of fiction. In case you didn’t know, I’m a horror guy. My grandmother passed it along to my father, who in turn passed it along to me. Horror courses through my veins.

For me, horror is many things. Not only does horror force audiences to confront some kind of frightening scenario, but it’s gore, terror, monsters, and most importantly, the unknown. Anything is possible. Even though horror is sometimes looked upon like a red-headed step child, it isn’t going anywhere. The really good stories resonate and stay with audiences. Plus, I reference movies like The Evil Dead, 30 Days of Night, and The Descent so, you know, there may be a gif or two. 😉

Let’s tackle some questions like a Deadite on a fresh soul!

1) What are you currently working on?

Long time followers of this blog know I have a book on submission, called BETWEEN SHADOWS AND DARKNESS. What you may not know is I had originally planned on creating a trilogy set in that world. I even went so far as to outline major plot points for all three books before writing a single word of the first book. It’s fun knowing exactly how I envision the third, and completely unwritten, book ending. I know exactly who lives and who doesn’t. Anyway, the second book, titled THE BLACK GATE, is nearing thirty thousand words. That’s what I’m working on. It takes place four years after the events of the first book and follows familiar faces like Mitsuko, Julius, and Samael.

What is THE BLACK GATE? It tells the story of a Nephilim (half angel, half human), and heaven’s last seer, who races to prevent the extinction of the angelic race from a group of disgruntled fallen angels. Throw in a newly recognized group of vampire citizens fighting for their basic rights, ravenous feral vampires who live in dark places and come out at night to feed, and the human population fighting to keep their place in the world and you’ve got the recipe for my book. I wanted to take traditional religious beliefs and blend them with vampire lore to give readers something that is part historical and thriller, and wrapped up in a horror package. In the first book we get to see the beginnings of the world as it changes. With THE BLACK GATE, we’re thrust into the middle of an adapting world–where citizens don’t want vampires living next door, and they don’t want to share things like social security or anything else with them either. All the while angels and fallen angels are waging a war for heaven as their numbers dwindle dangerously low. The fate of heaven and earth hangs in the balance. Hopefully this book shoots first and asks questions later.

2) How does your work differ from others in its genre?

It would be conceited of me think my work differs completely from others in the horror genre. I think each writer is influenced by all of media they consume–whether it be comics, video games, television, movies, or books. My feral vampires are definitely influenced by Jeff Long’s Hadals from his book, THE DESCENT. While they aren’t identical, there are similar elements. Films like 30 Days of Night and The Descent also had an impact on me. With that being said, I paid careful attention to the science of these creatures. I wanted their existence to make sense and come across as genuine. Most of you may not know that I first had the idea for this book while I was still in the Air Force, sometime between 2003-04. I still have the original notes in a tattered notebook. This book came from the depths of my mind, so I guess that’s what makes it different.

3) Why do you write what you do?

That’s easy. The answer is my grandmother. She would come over most weekends before cancer took her and watch horror movies with my dad and me. She’d ask questions like, “What’s he doing that for?” “Why’s she going in there?” It was fun being a pre-teen and answering her questions. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those questions forced me to take a deeper look at character motivation and plot structure, my first critiques if you will. She’d give a thoughtful nod and move on to the next scene. I miss those weekends. My grandmother’s name was Barbara and she would laugh at the beginning of Night of the Living Dead when they used her name. We all did. One of her favorites was Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. Mine too. I try to tell the kinds of stories I think she would have enjoyed. I know she would have loved them all.

4) How does your writing process work?

Believe it or not, this is an easy question to answer. Overall, I’m a huge plotter. It only took me four years to figure it out!

The first thing I need is an idea that won’t be ignored. Once an idea burrows into my grey matter, I’ll jot down the beginnings of a main plotline and various character bios. Depending on how clear these initial concepts are, I’ll let them marinate for about a week to see what else rises to the surface. Those concepts solidify and I’ll write out a more thorough outline of the entire book consisting of a few sentences for each planned chapter. It’s important for me to have a clear a vision as possible before typing a single word of the first draft. It saves me loads of time in the revision process. I’d rather take my time in the beginning to make sure I get things the way I want them. I also don’t believe in creating a shitty first draft. Why lower your expectations because it’s a first draft? I want everything I do to be as good as possible. This includes first drafts. I’m a big believer in setting the bar high for everything we do. You can’t do excellent work if you don’t expect excellence first.

I think it’s important to mention that I believe creating quality fiction takes as long as it takes. I don’t believe in rushing through. If I need to take a break and work out a plot hole in my head for a few days, I will. I won’t ever submit something I’m not completely satisfied with either. I’ve learned to trust my instincts. Keep in mind this is what works for me. Each writer should discover what works best for them and fine tune their writing process accordingly.

Hammering out a first draft comes next. I like to use my outline as a guide and be flexible when creating the first draft. Sometimes you have to try different things before things feel right. After the first draft is done, I go back through focusing on big picture things like character consistency, setting, pacing, and looking for plot holes. Some sections will need beefing up while other will need to be pared down. I’ll step away for a week before reading through again looking for typos, odd sounding phrases, and passive voice. After all that, my sister gets to read it. She’ll mark things with a red pen and I’ll go through her notes deciding what is valid and what isn’t. One more pass before sharing with critique partners. Rinse and repeat with the going through notes for what works for the story. Annnd…viola! My idea went from a plot baby to a full grown story. What, you were expecting something a little more sexy? Sorry to disappoint everyone.

I can’t forget music too. I constantly listen to music to help me hone in on certain moods. If I’m writing a fight scene, I turn up bands like Killswitch Engage, The Used, and and Cold. If I’m writing a romantic plotline, I’ll listen to bands like We Are The In Crowd, Marianas Trench, and Paradise Fears. Music just makes everything better!

Special Note: This post is dedicated to the loving memory of my grandmother, Barbara Jean Taylor. Without her, I wouldn’t have discovered a passion for horror. I hope I’m the kind of man, and writer, that would have made her proud. She is loved and missed.

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BJT

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4 comments

  1. I love this post for so many reasons. Your grandmother’s memory has my respect. I know she’s proud of you and what you’re setting out to accomplish.

    I think of my grandmother often, and how she bragged to her bridge partners that she would one day be the grandmother of a famous writer. I think of her watching me committing myself day in and day out and can see her nod in approval. Sometimes I can smell her special scent of peppermint and lilac. 🙂

    I grew up watching horror with two of my sisters. They still call me after a movie to talk about it- what scared them, what confused them. Good times. We’d stay up late to watch Freddy and Saturday nights were dedicated to Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

    Like you, horror is my first love. I’m re-reading Hell House right now and just read this awesome anthology by an Australian horror writer. *Stops to look it up on Kindle* Ah, yes, it’s Deviance by Shane Jiraiya Cummings. Horror encompasses so many things, and I think the market forgets that. Readers never do. It’s like rock and roll. The fans are there, and I like to think they’re waiting for writers like us(I write YA, but I was a teen when I discovered the *really* good stuff, lol.)

    I was a dedicated pantser, but as you know, I’m leaning more towards plotting these days, even if my methods are retrograde. Thanks for mentioning we all have our own process. I love learning about others, but I think new writers get so caught up in the rules they miss the discovery of finding what works for them. At least, I know I did.

    I knew you were a plotter the first time we met. 😉

    So true what you said about influence. The deeper I go into my story, the more I see hints and hues of stories I’ve read, movies I’ve watched, and even the music I listen to. As you said, it’s how we put it on the page with our personal blend and voice. Wise words.

    Great post and—- I can’t wait to read The Black Gate. Awesome title, by the way.
    Thanks for the mention, too.

    1. Thanks, Tonia. You know I’ve got your back. I know my grandmother would have loved my book. I love that your grandmother said that about you. Great motivation.

      I knew you were a pantser the first time we met. 😉

      I can’t wait to see how your revisions turn out. Write on wit yo bad self! 🙂

  2. I’d personally cannot handle horror stories…I’m a wuss. But mr. Taylor…that description of your wip is so intriguing. I love the complexity of the social and political atmosphere…and I really want to read more.

    1. It’s funny because I was just commenting on your latest blog post! Thanks for the kind words. So much has happened since the last time we talked. I hope your writing is going well. Let me know if you need anything.

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