Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Bad Advice Corner: Cerebral Thunderdome

I've been putting some thought into the process of story development recently, primarily as I'm at the stage of the writing cycle where I'm looking for my next batch of ideas. I like to be working on about three scripts at once - actually writing them, that is. This means that I need to have one eye on the horizon at all times so I always know where my next story is coming from.

Example: right now, a quick glance at my worklist shows that I have nine contracted projects currently either in the process of being drawn or awaiting publication, one completed and in need of a publisher and fifteen more either partially scripted or still in the planning stages. On the four that I'm currently writing, I'm turning out about three 22-page scripts per month, depending on other commitments. That feels like a decent workload, and I'm one of those people who has to structure his time pretty rigidly or get nothing done.

When I bump stories up from the "interesting concept" category to "in production", I've increasingly noticed a tendency toward Thunderdoming. This was something that first happened with Cancertown, which was a story I'd had kicking around in my head since university, but which never came together until Morley entered the picture, basically wandering in from another story altogether and taking over. Similarly, the Mr. Green character from Slaughterman's Creed was never intended to feature in that story at all, and ended up redefining the whole book. It's become a pattern. I can be roadblocked on any number of stories at once, then suddenly realise that they aren't separate books at all, but facets of a single narrative that were fighting to assert themselves. Thunderdoming - two stories enter, one story leaves.

The mental Thunderdome can kick out some surprising results. One story I'm getting ready to plot out originated as a sequel to another book, but now a new lead character has fought his way into it and booted that original story right out of the picture. I'm sort of staring at the wreckage right now and wondering how it happened. All I know is that I'm twice as excited about this fucker now it's no longer a part 2. It just works out that way sometimes.

I occasionally get asked to blog "writing advice" here, and while I have serious doubts about the usefulness of anything I might say, I guess this rambling, incoherent post is about the closest we're likely to get. So, y'know... have fun with that.

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