Writing a Novel: A Minimalist’s Writing Process

Please join me today in welcoming guest blogger KR. Mitchell from my Alma Mater down in Tuscaloosa! In fact, he’s not only at the same university: he’s in the same department I started out in.

KR. Mitchell is currently working on a Bachelors of Arts in Journalism at the University of Alabama. KR. Mitchell began with a love of reading and writing from a young age. Not until reaching college did KR start serious work on honing his skills in writing thanks to vigorous journalism courses. It is an adherence to AP Style and brevity that influences his writing style’s focus on minimalist descriptions, short sentences and conciseness. It’s not the standard, but it works for him. Find him on Facebook: http://on.fb.me/10wHEmK

KR. Mitchell and Minimalist Approach to Fiction

forcesofnatureIn my mind, writing is both an art and a science. The art side is that little spark that combusts into the blazing hot passion that inspire you to put ideas to words and words to paper. The art is in the finished project, and the science is in the creation. A complex formula of trial and error that starts with that one idea. Think of sharing your final draft with your friends and family as peer reviewed research. If your idea is found to be entertaining your peers will let you know it. Let me give you some insight into how the science of writing actually worked for me.

The first step was the rough draft, or discovery draft. This is perhaps the most important phase of writing.  It’s also the most fun of the stages of the writing process because at this point anything goes. It should be emphasized that you should finish the rough draft without regard to grammar, theme or even dialogue. You will fix it later. Too many writers get put off by the “roughness” of the first draft and never get past it. I used to be one of them until I realized that even if my book is terrible at least I finally wrote it.

The first draft hardly feels like the same novel as the finished product because I ended up changing a lot of stuff around. It was mainly a task of adding additional characterization and dialogue, but also the removal of too much backstory and making sure the plot didn’t unravel too fast. Writers need to make certain judgment calls about what’s essential to the story and what can be cast off to another Word document. I ended up with about twenty or so pages of deleted material, but I think the story is stronger for it. I did end up using some of those scenes later in the story so it was a good idea to keep it separately and not delete it.

Characterization was also something that became stronger through a completed rough draft. I like to use my character named Edwin Silversine, a 14 year old aristocrat gone rogue, as an example. His biography I wrote for him back in 2010 said he was polite, kind and thoughtful. The Edwin in the final version of this story is an impostor. He’s disrespectful, self-centered and blunt regardless of context. He manages to be redeemable because despite all his faults because he wants to restore dignity to his family’s name and have fun while doing so. Edwin is the most dramatic of the changes to characterization, but to some extent every character evolved from the way I had originally envisioned them. Like evolution, for every thing they lost they gained something new, or at least that’s how I assume evolution works. I admit I’m not a scientist, I’m a writer.

So are we all writers here 🙂 What about KR’s process resonates with you guys? Do you end up cutting backstory like him, or adding it? Are your first drafts also “discovery drafts,” or do you outline things and discover your plot then? What do you do differently than KR? I’m truly fascinated by how every writer does things differently. Feel free to comment or ask questions below.

About Forces of Nature Series

The adventures of a young girl named Alison Moody and her friends, Ren Kiramitsu and Edwin Silversine, as they try to save their country and the world from corruption by secret forces with extremist intents. The Forces of Nature is seamlessly mixed with drama and action that keeps you laughing on the edge of your seat. The character development is fascinating along with the twists and turns associated with them. Find the FON Series on Facebook: http://on.fb.me/ZVfuGb

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6 responses to “Writing a Novel: A Minimalist’s Writing Process

  1. I agree that the rough draft is the most fun phase of writing. I stay up all hours trying to get the story down. Since I’m a pantster, I have to go back and adjust things the same way KR does. That’s fun too but a second look at my first draft makes me shriek with horror at the grammar and spelling mistakes. Thanks for sharing with us, KR. Thanks for having him, Victoria. Enjoyed it!

  2. KR seems to have a sculptor’s approach, in which he amasses a lot of material only to whittle it down later.

    My approach is more like figure drawing. When drawing a human figure, you start with a basic skeleton, then rough out the contours of the flesh, sharpen the lines, and finally add shading and texture.

    Creating an outline, to me, is like drawing that first skeleton. You work out the form of the novel before you commit too much errant time and energy. Each subsequent draft adds more layers. I usually focus on plot and dialogue with my first draft, and it turns out looking very much like a play. Then I focus on fleshing out the character arcs. Finally, I’ll concentrate on my actual prose.

    With this figure drawing approach, each draft is longer than the last. My outline was 30 pages. My first draft was 250 pages. My second draft was 300 pages. My third will likely be longer.

    One thing I like about KR’s approach, though, is the emphasis on experimentation. I’d like to try to incorporate that into future novels–perhaps write pantser-style before the outline is even started–to experiment with scenes and character dynamics. Sort of like how a painter will do a study sketch before the actual painting.

    • I LOVE how you connect visual art to writing here. There really are some deep connections there. Thanks for your thoughts and for describing your process!!! Figure drawing is a great method toward writing.

  3. Somebody says that the first draft is the writer telling the story to themselves. I think that is really accurate. Thanks for the post.

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