Left-brain writing

left rightIt’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, which is just another way of saying it’s time to get started on Book 3 of the Jeremy Shuttle Adventures, “What Now?”

With that on the docket, I thought we’d spend a (brief) bit of time talking about my writing process, specifically the structure around my writing.  I’ll try to keep this less boring than it sounds!

Despite common belief, the jury is still out on the whole “left-brain = logic, right-brain = creative” theory.  There’s so much that is yet to be understood about the human mind that the initial ideas currently out there could just as easily end up being wrong…or backwards.

Take me, for example.  I go through a meticulous process of first outlining my book (roughing out what I think is going to happen in each chapter) and then sewing it together with a full plot.  This is probably somewhat backwards (how can you come up with chapter ideas if you don’t have a plot?), but bear with me.

Years ago, I had a strong working relationship with my boss.  He was a creative thinker and given to a variety of artistic pursuits.  He got it into his head to write a screenplay on an idea he had been percolating (being a devotee of the Godfather films gives you a clue on the setting).  He enlisted me to “team-up” with him in the writing.

Until then, I had not done any professional writing in well over 10 years and certainly no screenplays.  We boned up on the process and he decided the best technique was to write the scenes on index cards, which we could then shuffle as we felt best fit the story.  From there, we began the writing.  While that ultimately fizzled, it left me with a positive feeling about scene/chapter shuffling.

When I began “What If?”, the first book in the trilogy, I had already mapped the story out in my head, so I went straight to the index cards (or in this case, simply a series of numbered lines on a notepad).  From there, I took my notepad with me to the beach and began to scribble about a half page of notes on each chapter.  Maybe it would be scene descriptions.  Maybe it would be dialog.  It might only be a series of suggestions of what I planned to happen in that chapter.  The process took a few hours in the morning and then I returned home.

Later that day, I looked at my outline and chapter notes and “shuffled” them, not with any physical movement, simply by renumbering the chapters.  From there I began writing.  That was a lot of “left-brain” activity before the “right-brain” got out of bed.

Of course, once I started writing, some things changed.  The exciting quality about writing is allowing the freedom to move your mind away from or beyond where you originally planned.  While the over-arching design stayed the same for Jeremy, much of the story itself was purely organic, growing from the words just written more than a specific outline or chapter “index”.

For me, I don’t see the separation of left and right brain.  Without its initial structure, I don’t see how I could have written the books at all.  Without the freedom to diverge from that structure, I don’t think the books would have had the vitality they do now.

As far as I can tell, left is as right as right as long as I have something left to write.

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