Dylan in Taos

Dylan is a senior Hunt Leadership Scholar and David and Carolyn Miller Scholar. A member of the University Honors Program, he is majoring in English with a specialization in creative writing in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. He was named a Richter Fellow and Unbridled Learner for summer 2012, when he will be working on his first novel at SMU-in-Taos.

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Blueprint of a novel

Today, I passed the 20,000-word milestone! It is a fantastic feeling to have written that much in so little time. I figured that I would give you an idea of how my writing process works, since it seems to be working well. I usually begin a short story with an idea, or a phrase, such as “He had killed before” or “Reaching 34G, Danny sighed loudly, realizing that 34F was a talker” (I came up with that on a plane … Don’t know if you can tell) Usually that sentence, that idea, sparks something and by the time I am done with the first paragraph, I have a story, fully told, in my head. The problem is, this approach doesn’t work nearly as well when you write a novel. It is easy to keep facts straight in your head when the final document is only a couple thousand words, and even if you forget, it isn’t that hard to go back and find what you are looking for. Novels are different animals, which require significant planning and foresight.

Some people write and revise and write and revise, creating many drafts of one story, chapter, etc. I see my fiction as a living, breathing creature, which changes over time. I am constantly revising my work as I write it. When new ideas spring into my mind, I either dismiss them or include them, and when those ideas contradict something I have already written, problems arise. For example, last Wednesday I thought it would be a fine idea to make one of the central characters the sister of an ancillary character. I thought it would allow me to introduce her earlier in the novel. However, by Friday I had changed my mind, which required a good twenty minutes of editing and revising to the novel’s many parts. An important part of my novel is the relationship between things and memories. After writing the first chapter, a chapter intended to charge objects with emotions, I realized that I needed to keep it all organized. I needed to know where an object was in relation to a character. For example, the trophy that your little league baseball team won wouldn’t be very important to your sister, but it is important to you. Below is a map of the objects that are central to my novel. They are organized into categories based on their location in the family’s house, and further connected by the information associated with each object. Click for the map for the first chapter of the novel: Map

The deeper into the story I get, the more complicated this map becomes.

In addition to maps, I am using a program called Scrivener, which helps me organize the novel into Parts, Chapters, and Scenes. Below is a screenshot of what the program looks like when I am using it. There will be 12 Chapters broken up into 3 Parts. Here is what it looks like so far:

This is the view fully “zoomed” out. You are looking at the novel’s basic outline.

And finally, as a little bonus, here is the cover of the novel… I know I am getting a little ahead of myself, but I couldn’t help it.

Look for my next post. I will be revealing a chapter of the novel!

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