The Process of Preparing to Write

4th Crater Lake Book - Storyboard - Guenette photo

You might well ask – what does that headline mean – the process of preparing? This phase must have as many variations as there are writers practicing their craft. For me, it looks something like this: I work on a storyboard, I do research, take notes and draft up scene post-it-notes to stick on bits of paper. I do interviews with each of the characters who will be coming back along with detailed character sketches for all the new characters.

Scene post-it-notes - Guenette photoOne day I will tip over from all this preparation to actually writing the book. This is the fifth time I embark on this adventure and I have no reason to expect anything different.

I thought it might be fun to share Justin’s interview. He’s been a pivotal character in all the Crater Lake books and no one will be surprised to see him return in the fourth novel.

Where Are You Now, Justin Roberts?

What have you been doing over the last two years?

It’s mostly been school and coming back to Crater Lake in the breaks. I’ve just finished my undergrad degree at UBC and I’m working at the sawmill again. Reg is like some kind of a whirlwind this year. He’s on and on about production and racking in the money before he retires. Mike brushes it all off because he’s so happy about him and Wynter, he probably wouldn’t notice if a tsunami slammed its way right up from Brookes Peninsula and swamped the sawmill. I don’t find the job as great as it used to be but that could be because I’ve got my sights on full-time work somewhere else. I want to stay in the North Island and use what I learned at university. I’ve got applications out to a few of the independent logging operations.

What has been your biggest achievement?

Finishing my degree was a huge accomplishment.

Your biggest disappointment?

My relationship with Lauren – it continues to be up and down, on and off and now we’re in a constant state of sniping at each over me wanting to work up here. She insists I would do better in the city and refuses to even consider joining me in the middle of nowhere.

What issues from the past still haunt you?

I’ve never really been able to get Lisa-Marie out of my head though I’ve hardly seen her in the last two years. I’m pretty sure she’s avoiding me and I can’t say I blame her.

Out of the blue, my mom is back in my life and writing to me. The first letter totally freaked me out. Her psychiatrist wrote as well. She said not to rush to my mom’s side. She seemed to know that would be my first reaction. She said that my mother has made some radical progress in the last year – coming out of an almost catatonic depression. They’ve stabilized her on a new medication. She may move to a group home in a few months. She can only handle writing for now. I’m working to accept this without getting my hopes up for some kind of miracle reunion in the future.

How do you rate your various relationships?

The people at Crater Lake are family and I cling to that. I want to love Lauren but sometimes I wonder if I really do. There are so many things about my life that I can’t bring myself to share. I could never see myself telling her about my mom. We’ve been in this relationship for three years and I want to make it work but in my heart I’m not sure we have what it takes. She says I am too hooked into every one at Crater Lake. She thinks my commitments here are a way of distancing myself from her. But where would I be without Izzy and Liam and Robbie and Sophie?

Mike Sampson is a solid friend. I stay in touch with Dylan and Jesse. These guys know more about me than Lauren ever will.

I was going to say they know more about me than anyone but that wouldn’t be true. Lisa-Marie is the person who knows the most about me and I doubt there will ever be anyone else in my life that I could be so open with. I miss her. I ruined our friendship and that haunts me. It’s like I told her that first summer when she was sixteen – you can’t have sex without repercussions. After the cougar thing and all of that – I could have easily changed my mind about choosing Lauren. I wanted to. Liam urged me to tell Lauren I was in love with someone else. But LM wouldn’t let me. She wanted me to let her go. I had hurt her way too much to go and do a 180 degree turn.

What are your current goals?

I want a good job in the forest industry – maybe an engineer working on road development or something like that. Eventually, I want to be a forester. I want to make some money, have a nice place of my own and a truck that runs well – it doesn’t have to be fancy. I want to kick back now and then. Maybe take up a hobby like hiking or kayaking. Now that I’m back at Crater Lake and connecting with the Dearborn community, I’m thinking of studying to be a part-time paramedic. I’ve always been good in a crisis. I’ve also got some plans to renovate Liam’s old cabin. At one time, I would have thought every one of these goals was pie-in-the-sky crazy. But I’ve already come so far in the last five years. Why shouldn’t I just keep going? Go big or go home – right?

3-D Box Set - Crater Lake Series

Here I go on the next trilogy Smile Hope this little glimpse into where Justin’s at now whets your appetite to carry on with the series.

16 comments on “The Process of Preparing to Write

  1. This is an excellent way to get to know your characters inside and out. Well done!

  2. My mind looks a little like your post-it board…all of the time. Loved this.

  3. Matt Bowes says:

    Hi Francis! I’m admiring your storyboard. It’s very colorful and looks quite complex. I’ve been wrangling with how to do the plotting/planning, mostly considering programs and stuff to do this effectively. Some people commented on my blog that they use index cards pinned to whatever, but the postits look like it may do the same thing, only it’s post its and they’re good until they lose their stickiness.

    The board looks like you have bubbles surrounding locations, so the action is location specific in your organization? Do you do a scene timeline of sorts, or is it all gellin’ in the main story board? Your page with the pink post-its, that’s just one scene, or is it more of a relationship vector for reference?

    • I’ve had pretty good luck with the post-its staying stuck – I usually archive each board, rolled up and they have aged well. A typical book might end up with 3 or 4 of these pages. Circling locations helps me keep in mind where everyone will have a home base. I start with that one page of pink post-its and then just keep creating more and more as scene ideas come to me. Eventually, I will create a book that consists of one page per chapter and arrange and rearrange these post-it scene ideas until I get the timeline right. From the scene ideas, I will develop the dialogue – almost like a play. Later those scenes will be fleshed out with setting details. Thanks so much, Matt, for taking an interest in how I find my way around the writing process.

      • Matt Bowes says:

        There’s a good way to do this, and a really good way. I’d like to find the really good way. Thus, my inquiries. Maybe someday I’ll compile all the various authorial methods and see what adds up, but in the meantime, I’m looking for something to work for me. Scrivener has a sharp learning curve, so I’m wondering how much time to invest in it to get decent with it, and then of course, my trial period is over and I have to shell out bucks or do something else… like post-it notes.

        Ultimately, it’s all part of the creative endeavor, but trying to apply a… non-creative method to hash it all out. That is, codification isn’t the brainy creative stuff, it’s more like taking all that stuff and organizing it, like forcing an artist to hang his canvases on the wall so others can view them.

        • I have tried Scrivener and it didn’t work for me. Yes, I hear what you are saying – applying some sort of order to the creative process. There comes a point when the ideas have to be corralled into some type of structure. The visual nature of the storyboard appeals to me. I keep it in sight all the time and ideas seem to pop up when I’m least expecting them to. Good luck with finding the structuring technique that works for you 🙂

  4. I always love to see your storyboard, Fran. Your post on my blog about your storyboard still gets views. 🙂

  5. Woo hoo! Book Four on the way!

  6. diannegray says:

    I love character interviews, Francis. Well done! 🙂

    • They are all clamouring in my head to be next on the list to get their two cents worth in – the writer’s curse/blessing of having a host of voices in his or her head. Thanks for stopping by, Dianne.

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