Thursday, August 24, 2017

Guest Post by Ivan Ewert


(Editor's note: I promised this the day before the release of the book, which was at Gencon. That was last weekend. I thought it was this coming weekend. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to Mr. Ewert, Sarah Craft (the publicist I've been dealing with) and Apocalypse Ink Productions for my tardiness. I'm such a turdface. My review will be up tomorrow. I have a few more pages to read yet and I can't wait to see what happens next.)

Whenever I talk to an author about hosting a guest post by them, I ask for a column about either: A.) Their current or most recent release, B.) Their writing process or C.) Some combination of both. Ivan Ewert, author of the Famished: Gentleman Ghouls Omnibus, sent me the following about his writing process. Thank you Mr Ewert! I enjoyed this one.

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My writing process has changed over the years that were consumed by Famished: The Gentleman Ghouls, but it’s changed for the better, which is nice. It’s also different for long-form, short stories, and poetry, but I’ll focus here on the long-form.
I start by writing up a review of intention, chapter-by-chapter, as if I were describing the action of each to a friend. Those typically take between 2-3 pages in Word and give me an idea of what’s generally needed for each of the chapters to move forward and make sense.
Generally speaking, I write in order, chapter to chapter. Sometimes a scene will pop into my head that’s far in advance, or hasn’t been planned out yet, so I type that up as quickly as possible and save it for later revision. For the most part, though, it’s 1-2-3-4. I find it much easier to keep track of motivation and causality that way.
At this point, I don’t worry much about descriptions. The world will come together later. With my stage background, I think of this stage as similar to table reads: the actors are going through their lines while the set, lighting and sound designers in my head listen and take notes. I’ll go over the broad strokes, of course – where the characters are going, is there a door or a chair, etc. – but I don’t bother with the model of car, color of door, material and style of chair.
These days, I send each chapter as it’s completed to a group of alpha readers after a brief proof-writing pass. These stalwart folks have the unenviable job of reviewing what’s happening in its roughest form and keeping me on track. I learned this lesson after completing Famished: The Commons, only to be told by everyone I knew that half the book needed to be tossed and re-written. Receiving chapter-by-chapter feedback serves as an early warning system.
Once complete, I let the work cool off for two weeks or so prior to printing the whole thing out. Reviewing in a different presentation gives me a way to physically interact with the work, writing notes or edits longhand rather than in comments on Word. That breaks up the sometimes monotonous and ethereal feeling of what we do on the screen.
After making those edits, I print off a second version and read it aloud to myself. That helps me adjust dialogue to sound more natural (or unnatural, depending on the character for whom I’m writing) and highlights any clich├ęs or awkward turns of phrase in the description.
The next go-round includes adding in layers of description and foreshadowing. By now I’ve got an idea of the feel of the overall work, which colors the descriptions. If the book is despairing, you’ll get low cloud cover and dim, flickering lightbulbs; if it’s confrontational, electrical storms and fireplaces, etc. That’s part of the reason I don’t worry about the descriptions earlier on – while I have an idea of the feel and theme of the book at the beginning, these often change and shift as the words are pouring out.
Additionally, now that I know the order in which things happen, I can go back to reference them. Do I need to highlight there’s a gun on the mantelpiece earlier? Has a character morphed into a turncoat who needs to give signs of unreliability in previous conversations? Does a car need to break down, so hints should be dropped?
When all of this is done and I feel more or less satisfied, the beta readers get the entire book. I generally ask them to mark the document up in Word with Track Changes activated. As those reports roll back in, I go through and immediately fix any typos or awkward phrases in my master file, and file the various thoughts and comments away in the back of my mind.
When ALL the readers have got back to me – or indicated their regrets that they won’t be able to return it in time – then I look for common threads in their comments. For example, in Famished: The Ranch, everyone agreed that the torture scenes needed to be more gruesome and lavishly described. I’d done a fine job technically, but they didn’t drive the horror home. After three rounds of revisions, everyone agreed that I’d made them deeply uncomfortable enough to consider them ‘done.’
Then it’s finally off to the editors. In general, I accept their revisions without complaint. They’re more experienced with what sells and what turns people off, so unless I strongly disagree I go with the flow of their requests. When I’ve returned the manuscript, it’s just a waiting game until the work is published.
At that point, I reward myself. Since writing isn’t my primary stream of income and doesn’t pay the bills, I use any proceeds to reward myself upon publication. Generally speaking this means a good bottle of Scotch, a shipment of Baby’s Coffee, or a new piece of consumer electronics, although when my paycheck coincides with some disaster in the world I’ll earmark some of it for additional donations.
Throughout the process I’ve generally got bandcamp.com or mynoise.net playing in the background. Music or ambient sound effects help keep my subconscious critic occupied with feel and atmosphere rather than the technical perfection of the work. When editing, though, it’s noises off all around, just me and the manuscript at a writing-desk.
That’s how the work gets done, snout to tail. It’s not an hour a day or a certain number of pages a week, but it does seem to do the job for me.

Famished: The Gentleman Ghouls Omnibus is available at the link below:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Jim! A pleasure getting to know you. The link is at http://www.apocalypse-ink.com/page/More-Information-Famished-The-Farm.aspx for those interested!

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