The Lower Frequency - Mind Map
Noise Generator - Lower Frequency
The Lower Frequency - Mind Map
Noise Generator - Lower Frequency

Seven Hundred and Seventy-Six – The Process

Seven Hundred and Seventy-Six is my first story in the #52ShortStories challenge and also the first one, that I can recall, in which I started and finished within one week. This was a big milestone for me. The great part about this challenge is that it’s going to continually push my capabilities. No resting on my laurels (do they sell laurels at Ikea?).

My initial idea was to block out at least one hour a day, from Monday to Sunday, in a very orderly fashion:

  • Monday – Brainstorm/Plot
  • Tuesday – Write First Act
  • Wednesday – Write Second Act
  • Thursday – Write Third Act
  • Friday – Read and Revise
  • Saturday – Read and Revise
  • Sunday – Publish

While blocking out the time was useful, I ended up writing all over the place. I would get stuck and instead of wasting time banging my head on the same problem, I decided it might be wiser to write something else. That something could be in Act 3, it could be back in Act 1, it could be a Q&A session with myself. I just wanted something that kept me moving forward in one way or another.

Come Sunday morning, I was as done as I could be. I printed the story out and enlisted my wife to provide her usually brilliant feedback. It really helps to be married to another creative.

So let’s look at how the story came to fruition, shall we?

When I first sat down to write, I had no idea what I would write about. When that’s the case, I usually turn to an idea I’ve recently read about, or word or image association. I’m looking for a seed to plant; something on which I can build off.

It started here:

This bit of text comes from a noise generator I use when I want to get some serious focus going. I put on the noise-cancelling headphones so I can crank up the brown noise (ironic) and drown out everything else. For some reason, that highlighted bit of text (my highlighting) said, “Pick me!” And so I did.

Then came the mind map:

The mind map is something I’ve only started doing regularly, and let me tell you, I love it. There’s a lot in there that never made sense or applied, but it generated the ideas that stuck. I used this again for the story I’ve started this week and it’s already gotten me excited about the new idea.

But you can see there are some obvious things seeping into my creative brain (notice the Western theme which was inevitable given all of my recent Western reading).

If you’re interested, I built that using SimpleMind. I find it works very well for me, especially given my horrid handwriting.

Right after that, I started a general ‘scratch file’ that contains the following:

  • A very basic outline
  • Any prose that bubbled up into my head during random times of the day
  • Research needs
  • Questions
  • Thoughts and Ideas
  • Revision Notes

I maintained this scratch file throughout the process, jumping in and out of the actual manuscript occasionally.

Now, if that’s not enough of the process for you and you want to read the scratchings of a neurotic writer, feeling much better about yourself in the process, here are my writing journal entries specifically for that week’s story and writing:

Some of my favorite entries:

Already feeling so much resistance — this is going to suck, people will hate it.

Had some moments of fear, but not too bad today. I doubt all of the days henceforth will be so fearless, so it’s nice to catch the breaks when they come.

Only 500 or so words in 50 minutes. Wow…. 10 words a minute? really!?

Overall, this has already turned into a fruitful experiment. Even if I were to throw in the towel right now, which I won’t, I would have a finished story that I could start submitting.

I hope those of you that are filled with fear and dread when it comes to writing can learn from the Fear Master™ himself. Don’t wait for the courage. Don’t wait for the time. Make them both and give us all a piece of yourself we can enjoy.


4 thoughts on “Seven Hundred and Seventy-Six – The Process

  1. I am so impressed! I consider myself a pantser, which is probably why I have so many unfinished novels, but your process does not seem as restrictive as some I’ve read about. I’ve heard about mind-mapping but never show a good example of how it could be used until now. Thanks for sharing your process. By the way, I have an app called myNoise that I’ve used to help me get to sleep at night. What a great idea to use it to minimize distractions during the day!

    1. I’m glad you found my description useful. It seems my sweet spot seems to be a little planning, but not overdoing it. But then again, maybe that just worked on this particular story. I have a feeling I’m going to find out a whole lot by this time next year!

      That’s also great about myNoise. It’s amazing how well something like that works to give you some peace.

  2. I love how thoroughly you document your process–this is fascinating to read. The story itself is also quite good; it reminded me of some old Marty Robbins-style Western ballads, with a supernatural flavor. I had not heard of the “weird Western’ genre” before, but it’s very much to my taste.

    1. Thanks for the kind comments. I love Marty Robbins, so I’m over the moon with that comparison! Weird western is a genre I discovered only a few years ago. Check out some work by Joe Lansdale. There’s also a lot of good anthologies out there – Dead Man’s Hand and Straight Out of Tombstone

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