John Irving or Stephen King?

The writing methods of John Irving (The Door in the Floor) and Stephen King (The Shining) couldn’t be more different. Both seem to have strong views about the right way to write. Last year I read King’s, Stephen King on Writing and was blown away when he talked about his writing process, but was even more impacted by how strongly he feels about it.

According to King, organization kills creativity.

John Irving, on the other hand, takes an approach that would make King’s eye twitch in barely contained rage and frustration. Irving’s first action is to write the last line of his book. He then outlines and defines every step that will be taken to lead the reader from page 1 to that culmination.

I developed my own writing style before I knew anything about King and Irving’s methods. In fact, I had never heard of John Irving until I’d already published my second novel. I ran across a YouTube video of a speech he gave where he described his writing process. It almost perfectly mirrors my own.

Later, when I read Stephen King on Writing and I learned how the master does it, I found myself asking, “How is that even possible?” (He starts with a blank page and just writes.) Of course, Stephen King is a writing savant. He could write a 1,000 page novel with one thesaurus tied behind his back.

My process can best be described as organized, linear creativity. I invent my characters and the things that happen to them in a series of brainstorming sessions, then I use an organized, methodical approach to refine those broad ideas into specific details.

When discussing my writing approach with readers and budding authors, I describe it by saying, “I don’t write novels, I write scenes.” This is because I outline my ideas down to the scene level during my planning and organization phase. Then, when it’s time to start cranking out the prose, I only have to write one scene at a time. It is specific, finite, and relatively small. I’m not overwhelmed by the intimidating scale of several hundred blank pages and the pressure of having to come up with a novel’s worth of creativity on the spot.

Most importantly for me, though, is I don’t have the fear that I’ll start down a creative path without knowing it will end well. Because I’ve already determined the plot, sub-plots, character development, protagonist-antagonist conflicts, setting, etc., I can write one scene at a time knowing it will all fit together in the end.

How to Kill a Tarrasque

TarrasqueDuring a D&D game a few weeks ago, we were chatting and killing time before the game started. Someone mentioned the Tarrasque, the most powerful monster in the 5th edition Monster Manual, with a Challenge Rating (CR) of 30. I’m not sure why, but an idea for how two players of moderate level could kill it popped into my head.

Bear with me, as this approach has a certain eww factor for one of the players.

Sam the Sorcerer and Bob the Barbarian want to kill a tarrasque that is threatening their home town. Sam has the Teleport spell, and Bob wears a Ring of Regeneration. Bob also wears very spikey armor, kind of like what the glam-metal band Gwar wears in their music videos. The final ingredient in this monster-killing stew is Bob’s really big battle axe.

The steps required are very simple:

Sam the Sorcerer teleports Bob the Barbarian into the brain cavity of the tarrasque.

The Ring of Regeneration Bob’s wearing keeps him from dying, while his spikey armor and wielded battle axe cause lots of terminal damage to the giant monster’s brain, hopefully killing it instantly, or at least quickly.

Once the beasty falls to the ground dead, Sam gets some local woodsmen to swing their axes and cut Bob out of the monster’s skull.

Ohlen’s Bane now available in paperback

Book Two of The Taesian Chronicles
Book Two of The Taesian Chronicles

I am very happy to announce that Ohlen’s Bane, book two of The Taesian Chronicles, is now available as a paperback from Amazon.com.

Ohlen and his close ally, the irrepressible and honorable Kha’ard, pursue a deadly killer into a maze of underground tunnels after a close friend is assassinated. On the surface, the hardscrabble mining town of Eeron is attacked by a powerful race of creatures seeking to wipe out the humans that live there. Will the unexpected arrival of Eeron’s oldest enemy spell its doom?

Hiatus, and my return from it

I apologize to my readers and followers for my lack of communication in the last two months. I bought a house and moved, and that has taken up all of my free time since mid-October.

The weather where I live has also been a factor, disrupting schedules and plans and being downright inconvenient.

Now that things are settling down and getting back into a routine, I will be re-engaging in writing activities. I have a fourth book to write, and two existing books to release on paperback. Stay tuned, and thank you for your patience.