My Writing Process – The Best Laid Plans

Okay, this will be the first of my Virtual Writing Seminars. I may not do them in order, but I’ll tag and number them all and number them for easy access. For those who didn’t read the description in my last related post, this is My Writing Process. I get asked at conventions a lot to delve into how I do things, I assume because people are having trouble getting started or getting hung up in the middle and want to know how someone who has completed 9+ novels keeps himself on track.

There is, I think, a fundamental flaw in this line of thought. To paraphrase Stephen King (I reserve the right to do that a lot):

If you want to write, write.

When he said this he was speaking of those people at parties and other social events that you meet and they always say “I’d love to be a writer”. Then do it. It’s the only career in the world where there is no interview, no requirements, no education criteria, and no hours. It’s beautiful like that. Being a paid and published writer is another thing entirely. Being a successful writer is another thing again, but if your goal is simply to write then sit down with your pen and paper and just do it. And if you find that you sit there for days and can’t even get one sentence out… Well, maybe writing is for you what skiing is for me: an enviable thing I just cannot do.

But I doubt that’s the case. Most people are writers simply because most people are storytellers, so I guess the goal here is to get you to write steadily and write well.

No matter what I’m working on, I always start with a plan. When Ken Tam and I work together on our writing seminars, we usually liken this plan to a jackhammer: something big that should only be used at the beginning, and should be discarded if it later threatens the body of your work with it’s force.

Even then, there are different levels of planning. For the Black Womb series there is, on one level, an intricate level of planning. Because events in one book are deeply affected by another there had to be. For that series I bought a supply of steno books and planned each CHAPTER of the series. These plans can be as loose as a simple description or as tight as having actual dialog and shot-for-shot events in them. Six-to-ten chapters would typically make a novel, but Black Womb books are typically short, so twenty would likely be a better guideline. Still, nothing wrong with a short novel.

With Infinity the planning went different. As I was writing it with a co-author (Ellen Curtis), it wouldn’t have been fair to plot and plan everything. It also wouldn’t have been logistically possible, not knowing what was going on with her characters and pages. Instead I planned the characters themselves. This wasn’t a writing excersize so much as acting one. I got into the head of each of my characters and figured out their voice and back-story, then when it came time to put them in scenes together they acted naturally and it was like I was just transcribing the movie in my head.

With other projects, such as my upcoming shorts, I try not to plan too much at all. Instead they revolve around one idea, like: “Xander as Plato in the Symposium meets Rambo: First Blood”… Actually, that sounds fun. 😉

There’s another single novel I’m still in the plotting stages on where I’ve combined the first two elements and made it so that I know everything that will happen to each individual character, but where their stories cross is up to me when writing. That story may never be written, but we’ll see.

So as you can see, there’s no one way. Ellen uses post it’s with notes scattered across her writing room. Some people use thought mapping (something I personally despise, but you go crazy). Some people (again, Stephen King) claim they don’t plan at all… And with some novels I believe him. Whatever way you choose, make sure it’s fun for you and that it doesn’t discourage you from the writing process.

Let me know how you do, post YOUR planning methods if you have any, and happy writing.

Matthew LeDrew
Engen Books

Starting Off…

Ellen Curtis
Ellen Curtis

Engen Books is in a little bit of everything I do, or rather, storytelling is. I’m Ellen, and back in 2009 when I first handed a rough draft of my latest work to publisher and author Matthew LeDrew, I never thought my work would take off so fast.

Before I graduated from high school, I had three book launches under my belt. The last few years have seen the publication of my first short story, The Tourniquet Revival, in an assorted anthology that later spawned my solo collection Compendium. From there, Matthew and I co-wrote Infinity, and I moved into a larger role within Engen.

While doing this, I also acted as co-host for local web-series Sci-Fi on the Rock TV, a production aimed at providing information connected to the annual Newfoundland based science fiction convention Sci-Fi on the Rock. It was at Sci-Fi on the Rock that I first met Matthew at a panel about getting published.

Since that day, Matthew and I have teamed up on panels together and traveled across the country to different conventions. From a small start, Engen Books has grown to a multi-title, small-press machine, turning out work that I can say we are all truly proud of.

Essentially, through this blog I’ll be keeping people up to date on the latest goings on at Engen, and my latest day-to-day adventures. Until then, happy reading!

The Art of the Short Story

Okay, so I just finished the third of three short stories for an upcoming, unnamed Engen anthology, and it really got me thinking about the nature of the short story.

Sometimes when I’m writing a short it’s less about story and more about atmosphere, which isn’t the way I normally approach things. I’m usually of the mind that character, above all else, comes first; then plot, and then wherever the chips may fall. But as I write more and more short fiction I’m learning that these rules are often very different between the two.

Anyway, this was a short I’ve been itching to write for some time called Revving Engen. It’s kind of a prologue to the entire Engen Universe of stories, and takes place during what I’ve started to call ‘Black September’… In that both Infinity and Black Womb seem to have started around the same time in September.

Anyway, hopefully it’ll be good. Can’t wait to get some feedback on it. I believe it’s due out in April. We’re getting a host of great authors for this collection. Currently on the list include myself, Ellen Curtis, Jay Paulin and Sarah Thompson. There will be more, we’re just waiting on first drafts to announce.

Later days!

Engen invades Social Media

Engen Books now has pages on four of the major social media marketing sites to help spread the word about its great titles.

Pages have been added on Facebook (left), Twitter, MySpace and YouTube; each of which can provide a specific function for fans of the Engen Universe and are available from the Social Media toolbar located on the main page.

Author interviews and trailers have been available on the Engen Books YouTube for over a year now, and the Facebook page has been a part of our marketing plan from very early on.

The Twitter and MySpace accounts were added recently to round out the Social Media action plan.

“We’re excited about the plans for the social media marketing campaign.” said Matthew LeDrew, head of Engen Books and author of Black Womb and Infinity. “We want to make this an interactive experience for our fans. We’ll be logging on at least once a day to answer questions and reply to posts. In addition, we want to start an online version of the writing panels that go so well at conventions, giving short monthly assignments and feedback on work of young authors.”

Engen Books was started in October 2007 by Matthew LeDrew.

Sci-fi V Celebration!

Ellen Curtis at Sci-Fi on the Rock
Ellen Curtis at Sci-Fi on the Rock

April 15th-17th, 2011 saw the fifth annual Sci-Fi on the Rock at the Holiday Inn, and Engen Books was there in full force to help ring in the anniversary.

Sci-Fi on the Rock is an annual science-fiction, fantasy and horror convention held in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. It was founded in late 2006 and held its first convention in April 2007. This year’s convention saw the implementation of several new elements to the convention, including and third day comprising of a film festival to celebrate the province’s growing independent film community.

This year’s lineup saw a stunning array of authors, artists, and

Ink'd Well Comics @ Sci-Fi on the Rock
Ink’d Well Comics @ Sci-Fi on the Rock

actors from all ranges of the science-fiction, fantasy and horror genres. Guests included Robert Axelrod (Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers), Suzie Plakson (Star Trek: The Next Generation), David Nykl (Stargate: Atlantis) and Thomas Gofton and Tom Brown (Synn Studios, Mind’s Eye: The Series), as well as comic creators Kevin Woolridge (The Little World), Paul Tucker (The Underworld Railroad) and Jay Paulin (Ink’d Well Comics).

All seven Engen authors were also present to celebrate the release of two new Engen Books: Becoming (the seventh book in Matthew LeDrew’s Black Womb series) and More Sci-Fi from the Rock, the sequel to 2010’s Sci-Fi from the Rock.

New Authors join Engen Team !
Two new authors were added to the Engen stable at this convention, with the addition of Justin Foley and Mark Todd to our team of skilled professionals. Both authors were featured prominently in More Sci-Fi from the Rock, Todd in the short story Grimspound and Foley in the short Earthdeath.

Book Launch: Becoming and More Sci-Fi from the Rock !
April 16th saw a double book launch featuring Engen authors Matthew LeDrew, Ellen Curtis and Mark Todd.

“The launch was a complete success,” commented LeDrew. “People always seem happy to see a new Black Womb book, and this time an old fan even brought a ten-year old copy of the original Black Womb book to be signed, of which less than 50 exist. It was wild.”

There was also positive reaction to More Sci-Fi on the Rock, and to Mark Todd’s presence at the launch.

“Mark was great as always. We hope to see a lot more of him in later volumes… here’s hoping!”

Engen Books Cake!
Engen Books Cake!

But an Engen launch is more about books and writing… it’s about cake! Ellen Curtis crafted a wonderful cake portraying the Engen symbol in all its glory. Chocolate, gluten-free and frosted in sweet fondant, the cake was enjoyed by all in attendance.

Infinity tour concludes!
After six months, the tour that began at October 2010’s Hal-Con comes to a close as Engen authors Matthew LeDrew and Ellen Curtis conclude their tour of Infinity.

Since its release, the novel has risen to become one of Engen’s top sellers and has been hailed for its power to draw new readers into the company, a high percentage of whom stay and sample other books in the Engen fold.

“I’m happy its been so successful,” said Ellen Curtis, co-author of the novel. “The reaction has been phenomenal. We’re still going to focus on Infinity for a while yet, but it’s a relief to have the brunt of our tour over.”

Engen Books would like to thank Sci-Fi on the Rock for again allowing them to participate in their grand convention, and hopes to see all involved again next year.

More Sci-Fi from the Rock

Five new stories from Newfoundland’s best in science-fiction literature. Featuring stories by Darren Hann, Mark Todd, Justin Foley and Matthew LeDrew, plus the new sequel to the 2010 hit Legacy of the Full Moon, Vengeance of the Full Moon by Steve Lake. Pick up your copy today, you won’t regret it!

More Sci-Fi from the Rock (Paperback)
anthology

More Sci-Fi from the Rock

Purchase:

Canada:
More Sci-Fi from the Rock (amazon.ca)
More Sci-Fi from the Rock (chapters.ca)

US:
More Sci-Fi from the Rock (amazon.com)
More Sci-Fi from the Rock (Barnes&Noble)

Title Information:

ISBN: 978-1-926903-03-3
Release Date: April 16, 2011
Status: Available
Book Type: Paperback (5 x 8 in)
Cover Price: US $7.99 / CAN $7.89 / UK £5.99
Page Count: 69

Related Titles

Reviews

“When the weakest story in an anthology is still a good read, you’ve got a winner on your hands. Based on the two Sci-Fi on the Rock volumes thus far, I eagerly await next year’s release.”
Jay Paulin, Ink’d Well Comics
April 2011

Ellen Curtis at 10th Annual M&M Coffee House

Ellen Curtis was a participant in the 10th (and final) M&M Coffee House on March 17th, 2011 at the Holy Heart Theater.

Curtis read from her novel Infinity, co-authored with fellow Engen staffer Matthew LeDrew.

Students with a wide variety of talents performed at the event, ranging from poets, singers, musicians, and artists of all kinds.

“I had a wonderful time,” remarked Curtis. “I’m glad I could be a part of it. It was a great way to end what has become a Holy Heart tradition.”

Infinity was released on October 28th, 2010 to much positive attention from fans and online commenters, and has since risen to rival Black Womb in terms of both sales and success.

Curtis continues her Infinity tour this April 16-17 at the Holiday Inn in St. Johns during the fifth annual Sci-Fi on the Rock.