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The Wizard Report #1


My debut novel, Leigh Howard and the Ghosts of Simmons-Pierce Manor was recently released. While promoting Ghosts (please read it and give that all important review), I’m also working on the follow-up, tentatively titled Leigh Howard and the Wizards of Hightower Academy. Then it hit me. Why not keep a journal about the Wizard project, how it’s going, add in a few snippets, excerpts, etc? Something like:


“You and that ghost friend of yours are both brats!”


The cold air surrounding Leigh warmed ever so slightly. “Little Bodie kinda likes being a brat,” she said, mischief flashing in her eyes. “And so do I, for that matter!”


While I’m at it, I can throw in news about other projects I’m working on.


Best place to start is to describe my writing process. It’s the most asked for information at book signings and, well, anytime someone finds out I am a writer.


I’m a hybrid writer — not a full-blown discovery writer (the politically correct term for a pantser who sits at the keyboard and pounds that novel out by the seat of their pants) — nor am I a die-hard plotter who outlines every little detail before ever starting to type content.


I usually write the first chapter by the seat of my pants. That’s not entirely true. I spend a LOT of time daydreaming my scenes, going over the dialog in my head, the situation, settings and so forth. Then I knock out that first chapter. When finished, I let it breath for a few hours or maybe even a few days before I re-read it. Edit. Re-read. Edit. And re-read it again.


Writers ask the same question of themselves as readers do when they start a new book. “Am I invested enough in this story and these characters to spend the next several days, if readers, months if not years if the writer, stuck on a road trip with them?”


If not, that story is filed, not in the trash because you never know when a bitter idea will ferment into fine wine, but in my Writing Junk Folder.


If I am jazzed for the project, usually clear to me if I find myself daydreaming what comes next, I hit the plotting. Skeletal framework comes first — premise, theme, character arc, inciting incident and first plot point (not the same thing, btw). Really low-level stuff. Thing is, all that structural stuff is what comprises chapters one, two, and some of three. So off I go, starting to write my book. When I get stuck, bored (even the greatest stories need to be walked away from now and again), or afflicted with writer’s block — it happens — I return to the plotting board and flesh out other milestones — plot points, mid-point, soul searching, B-Story and/or love interest, and so on. I usually write the ending/last chapter pretty early on in the project, too.


My plotting is always a few chapters ahead of my writing, so going back and forth isn’t too difficult. Inevitably, at least it has happened in every book I’ve written, I simply can’t move forward. When I hit that point, I move backwards by skipping ahead a daydreamed scene or two that I have plotted and work my way back to where I was, weaving them together in a way that, hopefully, makes sense.


As for my template? I stick mainly with the Save The Cat Writes A Novel (Jessica Brody) structure or the Hero’s Journey (Joseph Campbell).


Hope you liked insight into how I do what I do. I’m always open to questions, especially from young writers, so don’t hesitate to reach out to me.


Shawn

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