Getting Back to the Business of Writing – Day 1: Establishing Place

Hi all,  It’s been a while since I’ve done a personal “Writing” post, probably because I’ve been so busy with life in general and trying to establish the course of things that I haven’t had the chance to provide an update.

When I haven’t been working on other things in my life, I’ve been reading and writing continuously.  You guys have probably already seen evidence of my constant reading from the stacks of reviews I’ve been posting between here on my blog and on Goodreads.  To date, I’ve read 200 books for the year – that’s a heck of a lot of books – ARCs, personally bought and library reads included.  o_O  I have at least 150 books to go if I want to meet my challenge goal for 2012.  I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it, especially with some of the work that’s coming up for me in the next several weeks/months, but I’m going to do my best to get as close as I can.

I’ve read more books this year already than any year in recent considerations, probably even within the last ten years of my life.  I think it’s just been a matter of making time for my pastime, but it hasn’t come without some costs.  I’ve had to divert my attention from other hobbies and even severely cut time from stuff I know I still love to do (video games, TV, anime watching/blogging/reviewing, etc.)

I have three major WIP projects behind me, with only needing edits (the first book in the six book series that I wrote nursery rhyme themed, warped reinterpretations for teens is pending, at least until I can get a cover for the project, but I’ve finished my third draft of it a while back.)   I’m currently working on another WIP that’s set in South America, specifically a YA dystopian set in Argentina.  I’ve always been fascinated by the history and the culture there, so I wanted to research and write a story for it that will not only excite other people for its unique background and elements, but also give a bit of insight to the culture and history of the country even within the fantastical realm I set for it.  It’s tricky business in that I want to do it right and with due sensitivity while also telling a story that’s of my own creation and imagination, but I’m willing to make the time and effort to commit to it.

I’ve had this project churning in my head for quite some time, at least a year or so, but I’m just now taking the courage to write it.  I wanted to write a work that blended elements of post apocalyptic, dystopian, historical exploration/expansion, and action/adventure thriller.  There are some bits of developing romance, but I’ve tried to make that a minor element compared to a lot of the YA “dystoromances” I’ve seen as of late.  “Dystoromance,” as aptly defined by one of my GR friends, are dystopian books that almost exclusively feature romance as the main line of the story rather than any other element/aspect.  I have a shelf for it even on Goodreads.  🙂   Some of the ARCs and books I’ve read in recent considerations in the dystopian genre have somewhat disappointed me with having some great ideas in scientific, cultural, fantastical narrations among others, but often default to the romantic relationships instead of expanding upon those unique ideals.  While relationship building I think is very good (heck, even great if done well), some of the ones I’ve read have disappointed me because of the many similar elements I’ve seen in the genre.  It frustrates me a little because, as diverse of a writing culture that we have, the ease of which I’ve seen narratives take on more common troupes, such as in the YA genre, has been more prominent than those daring to take on some of the more uncommon threads and further developing them.  I think later on, in another entry, I may explore that topic, but I’m digressing for now because I want to tackle another subject in my mind.

To me, when a book can balance multiple elements/genres within it that it keeps your focus and mind churning with imagination, those are among the best to peruse.  Not to mention strong characterization and sense of place.

I decided to start a daily series of entries for this month called  “Getting Back to the Business of Writing” – which is going to take me through the rest of the month as far as working between this current WIP I’m on is concerned.  I may be limited to what I can write on the project in a given day because my priorities are with my other work and presentations for now (especially one I have coming up this month, depending on how things go), but I want to tackle this as a side project, sort of like NaNoWriMo – though I will be participating in that this year, most certainly.

I’ve tentatively titled my WIP for now, though I’m bouncing between three or four different names that I think are intriguing, and they haven’t been used before (except perhaps for one, which I’m not sure if I’ll default to that considering it’s such a common title).   What I’m working on now is examining the place in which my WIP is set, and that’s included some heavy research surrounding Argentina as well as thinking about the dystopian elements I want to bring into it.  It’s involving me looking at the current state of the country (political, social, economic, and geographic among other factors) and trying to weave them into some possible future variety that might be a bit on the side of fantastical, but still has to be plausible within its own considerations.  I will certainly say that it’s a challenge, but I’m breaking it up into pieces to make it more manageable.

Examining place in a story is a very important aspect, because it’s the world you’re setting up for your reader to immerse themselves within – learning the rules, regulations, physical among other dimensions of that realm.  It can be overwhelming for a writer of any level to try to tackle these settings (especially all at once), but I find,  as I’m exploring the realm of my own work, being able to find visual elements and break apart these dimensions into pieces helps.    To build the realm of my current WIP, I first started small – local.  My story takes place within a secluded environment from the outside world, and to build that, I tried to look at a birds eye view of what that place entailed.  Some of that involved looking at dimensions of cities around Argentina like Buenos Aires, watching videos of the people, culture, and even examining the structure of the cities themselves.  How businesses are positioned next to each other,  how people spend their time and activities in public dimensions,  how the city is built and environmentally arranged.   Do I put cobblestones streets in one area and show a group of apartments in this way, do I have a group of musicians playing on a certain corner,  do restaurants have certain serving times in a day and what do the people eat there?  It’s building the microscopic aspects and building upon them to make the macroscopic viewpoint for me.  Some people do it the opposite way – start with the larger dimensions and then isolate.  Either way is fine.

Building the external environment outside of that isolated realm has been the trickiest part, because I’m taking into consideration actual physical landmarks in Argentina and place names.  I familiarize myself with the geography, and ask where the Argentine parts of Patagonia are located, where the waterfalls are relative to the route I want to have the main character travel, where the gauchos (who are  a significant part of the story I’m trying to tell) live and how they make their living, among other aspects.

I think even if people are focusing more on the characters and events of a story in their writing, being able to have an eye for the environment surrounding your story is important too, and should be something to vet when you’re coming up with where your story’s taking place.  You may not expand upon every element about your story’s environment, but being able to visualize and ask questions about the structure and function of that environment is important.

I may do another entry on this aspect tomorrow, with more questions to prompt ideas as well as talk about my progress from today’s events, but I wanted to let everyone know where I am at this present point in my writing, and where I hope to go in due considerations.

Happy writing and reading, as always,



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