A to Z Challenge 2013

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thursday Thoughts - Passing, Parrish, and Process

This guy truly represents how I feel at the moment. I've been struggling over the last month or so with a technical writing assignment, and I turned it in yesterday for grading. This is part of my Capstone for college, and I've chosen a hypothetical scenario involving setting up a network in a dentist's office. Why? Well, it shows my ability to handle multiple aspects of being a network engineer (since I'm working on an IT degree) and includes an environment demanding security protocols and confidentiality requirements. The technical writing assignment is a proposal of how I would take on a project like this.

To say technical writing is not my forte is an understatement of great proportions. I did manage to get passing scores on all the sections, but it wasn't anything exemplary. But as my college calculus teacher once told me (math is another subject I don't do well at), "D means Degree". It isn't beautiful, but it got the job done. Incidentally, I've got to thank Davin, who reminded me that technical writing doesn't have to be just a bunch of fluff. Your advice helped me more than you know, so thank you.

Yesterday I took the day off to celebrate my success on the paper, and the guy in the picture is me. I'm just about through the wall surrounding college, whereby I will then be a graduate. Time to plunge into part two of my capstone - a five page essay on an IT trend (I've chosen spam blocking appliances). Here's hoping it goes as smoothly.

You may be asking yourself why I'm pursing a degree in IT when this is a writer's blog? Well, I started my college education a long time before I realized I wanted to be a writer. Switching now would just waste a ton of money, and I haven't seen any consensus on whether having an English Lit degree would make me a better writer anyway. So since I only have two papers and a test between me and graduation, I'll just finish it up.

A while back I did a review of the book Offworld, and I've managed to wrangle an interview with the author Robin Parrish as well. I had not experienced his writing prior to picking up Offworld, but I can easily say I'm a fan now. I'll have the interview posted here very soon. If you haven't had a chance to pick up Offworld however, I highly recommend it. It's a good read from a very talented writer.

Lastly, I'd like to talk about writing process. Each of us approach our writing in a different way, and I enjoy finding out how writers get from conception of an idea to execution of the novel. For me, I usually start with an idea about a character. I am not a big picture person, so stories I write start as a person or a specific scene. For example, I might think about a man in his 40's, working in a factory building lawnmower engines. He's a bit overweight, because he doesn't get enough exercise. His horseshoe of dark hair is shaved close so he doesn't have to comb it. He prefers jeans and flannel shirts, because he can't stand the cold. His wife passed away unexpectedly, and he has no children. The armchair and television occupy his time, and at the moment he is just moving through life because he doesn't believe in suicide.

From here, I would pose questions and come up with the what, when, where, and how. Since I'm a confirmed "write by the seat of my pants" writer, sometimes I answer these questions and sometimes not. I am trying to improve, of course. I do see the usefulness of fleshing things out more rather than writing blindly. I'm sure however, that at least a good portion of my writing will be unscripted.

What is your process? Do you envision an entire story from the beginning or do you start with a small nugget of gold?


TereLiz said...

Hey, congrats on making it this far! I can sympathize with the way you're feeling.

As for me, stories definitely come to me in nuggets-- a hint of a character here, a plot idea there. When I get enough of these nuggets, I melt them all together into a molten slurry of plot via my trusty notebook. You know I love to abuse a metaphor to within an inch of it's life, so once I've melted down my nuggets and I'm satisfied that the quality of the slurry is high, I decide what the finished product will look like, meaning, of course, where the story will end.

I can definitely relate the long and arduous task of writing the novel to forging soft, hot metals.

Man, I could take this metaphor all the way to the bank! ;)

Anyway, good luck finishing up your degree!

Lost Wanderer said...

Good luck with the degree. I don't think having English-lit degree makes anyone a better writer. I think it all depends on the person, and if you are determined to make it as a writer, you will do so regardless of your educational background. My degree is in Finance and Economics - far sight from creative writing.

As for my writing method, still figuring out. But I usually start with a character or a plot idea.

Lost Wanderer said...

My Blogman is finally up

Jamie D. said...

My degree is in history...I work in IT, and that will support my writing, since making money in publishing isn't anywhere near a "sure thing". Finishing up your degree is a very smart move, and will give you a much more steady source of income than I assume you're making from your writing now (if you're making plenty from writing, that's great!). It's never a bad idea to get a college degree if one is so inclined, in my opinion. Congrats on being so very close to finishing!

And you described my normal process for starting a story precisely. I start with a character in some sort of setting, and go from there. I've been learning how to control my plotting more with Holly Lisle's methods, and how to plan out scenes to form a very casual outline of sorts. But I still start the same way - one character, one setting, lots of questions. :-)

Lady Glamis said...

You are SO close! That's wonderful. I minored in technical writing. I love technical writing, and I think it can be creative in myriad ways.

As far as process goes, I love the way you described yours. That's pretty much how I start with a story. I just begin with a nugget of gold and move on from there. It's all very organic. Then when I have the first draft, I start mapping and outlining like crazy to get it all tight and working.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Man, advanced congratulations on your degree. It feels great, I know. Took me 21 years to get mine from start to finish…no joke. But, it did feel good when it was over. Nice job, Eric.

Sounds like your stories are character driven. I like good, quirky characters who lead interesting lives and do oddball stuff…just like real life. The plot vs. character driven story argument rages on, but, even with a bad plot, good characters can save the day. Not sure the other way ‘round is true. Keep up the good work and keep writing, I think you have a talent for it.

Best Regards, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog