How a Post is Born

My Process

If you look back, you’ll see that Morning Coffee started as a fifteen-minute warm-up. Thanks to you, it’s grown into a popular little fiction series. (And seriously, thanks.) I won’t lie: it’s been a challenge keeping everything straight. But it’s worth it; when my readers appreciate my work as much as you do, it behooves me to pay meticulous attention to it. So here’s a little look at me, the man behind the curtain.

Storyboarding.

Every arc begins with a storyboard. I have a 3×4″ notebook on my desk. Every week, I fill two pages with every idea that comes to my head. I refuse to run onto any other pages, and I often write over myself to make space for ideas. It looks a little something like this:

MC_notes

As you can tell, no one is safe.

By confining myself to two 3×4″ pages, I keep my myself focused. It’s hard to write a classic three-act story in two paragraphs, but plotting helps. And it looks like gobblety gook on purpose: content dictates form, always.

Even then, my characters tend to act independently from me. Sometimes, they throw me curveballs I’m not expecting. In this entry, I originally intended the narrator to unconsciously horde food in his desk drawer. I planned the arc to last for weeks, with the stench worsening and upsetting coworkers. But then he reached into the lunch box. When he did, I ended it the only way I could–by sucking him into it.

Wait until you see how he gets out. (I have no idea.)

Setting Rules.

I also set rules for myself. Good stories exist in good universes, and good universes exist within certain parameters. When the writer betrays the rules of the world, he upsets the reader’s suspension of disbelief. Here are a few of my rules, without delving into spoiler territory:

  1. The narrator is the primary instigator.
  2. Every episode must exist in the office. At no point should the narrator ever leave, not even to visit the parking lot. Though he may vaguely reference outside locations, the story itself cannot exist anywhere else.
  3. All action must happen within fifteen steps of the narrator’s cubicle.
  4. No coworker names or place names.
  5. No episode should exceed three hundred words.

These limitations do not restrict my content. If anything, they have the opposite effect. When I start writing, I look over my rules and find ways to abuse them. For example, sucking my protagonist into a black hole technically doesn’t violate rules 2 and 3, allowing me to set the action in a separate location. Space and time are relative: there’s infinite potential inside that lunch box. Literally.

Writing Drunk. Sort of.

Hemingway used to have a saying: “Write drunk. Edit sober.”

Fuck that. Write sober. Writing’s a job; you wouldn’t show up drunk to work, would you? Then don’t show up drunk to your writing desk. But the famous saying does have a glimmer of truth to it: write like you don’t care; then shape it into something memorable.

I refuse to look back over any work until I’m ready to post it. I’m an editor by trade. If I fixate on microcosmic problems like grammar and word choice, I’ll never finish. You should see my blog drafts. They’re near-unrecognizable; they’re nightmares.

If I remember, I’ll try and screen cap one so you can see what I’m talking about.

House Cleaning

For those keeping tabs, I have a couple minor announcements:

I completely gutted and rebuilt my old college laptop this week (hence fewer entries and no header images). Now, it does a little better job processing words and designing graphics. I threw a new brain in it, upgraded the OS, and (re)installed Adobe.

Now, I should be able to finally finish the logo for this blog and design a decent stylesheet. I’m tired of using WordPress’s stock CSS. It’s ugly. If I’m paying for custom CSS capability (and I am), I should be using it.

Fingers crossed.


Anywho, that’s me this week. What does your writing process look like? What are your quirks? Leave a comment in the section below.

Stay weird,

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7 thoughts on “How a Post is Born”

  1. I’ve always liked the idea of “limitation”. There’s a great deal of “creativity is doing what you like all over the place”. Stravinsky said something like “Possibilities are infinite. Creativity lies in how you limit yourself.” If he didn’t say it he should’ve.

    1. You’re completely right. In grad school, I studied 17th century poetry by writing sonnets. I found myself writing things I never would have been able to produce otherwise.

      1. I specialized in Shakespeare studies. Small world. (Or maybe not, given it’s Shakespeare.)

        I like his form, but I lean toward Petrarch. But sonnet form is pretty malleable in itself. By the time I’d finished, I was inventing scheme patterns for myself. It was a lot of fun.

      2. I will note–when I did this, I did it with a group of MFAs who all hated form. Most of them wrote “sonnet deconstructions” that were basically free verse gobbelty gook. The best poems were the ones that accepted the parameters.

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