Flank Hawk and the Writing Process
by Terry W. Ervin II
The initial thought that sparked Flank Hawk, my first published novel, occurred while driving home from work in my 1990 Ford Ranger. I was thinking about two books I’d recently read (or more accurately reread), Roger Zelazny’s Guns of Avalon and Harry Turtledove’s World War: In the Balance. One of the main turning points in Guns of Avalon occurs when Prince Corwin finds a way to get gunpowder to function in the magical city of Amber. In the Balance is about an alien invasion during the height of World War II. The disparity in technology between the invaders and humanity is a major element in the novel’s conflict. While driving, I began to ponder what would happen if a dragon encountered a World War II aircraft? Okay, maybe one can see how the line of thought formed. From there I began to devise a world where such an encounter could take place. Then came the people and creatures that would inhabit the world, how it came to be, and the long-running, multilayered power struggle that would come to influence events in the plot that I was devising. Finally, came Krish and Lilly, Roos and Road Toad—the main characters in the novel.
The plot I was devising. That’s the main thrust of this article: plotting.
There are a number of writers out there that write with little to no planning. Some of them call themselves ‘pansters.’ In my experience, pansters, especially those who are aspiring writers or writers early in their career, struggle. A common occurrence is that, without a plan, a panster writes himself into a corner. If they do finish that first draft, extensive reorganizing, revising and rewriting is often necessary. That’s not to say the process doesn’t work. Further, there isn’t any one way that is the ‘right way’ to write a good novel.
Planning, plotting, outlining, or whatever one wants to name the process, I believe is a valuable tool in saving time and keeping a writer on track, helping to ensure both finishing the first draft, and serving as an aid to find success in the end.
I look at the plotting of a novel much like planning a road trip vacation.
The first thing I do is determine where the vacation (novel) will start and where it will end.
Then I start figuring interesting spots to stop and visit along the way, and the best roads/route to reach them. I plan a logical route, from stop to stop, that will take me, and the reader, from beginning to end.
Once I have that finished, I begin writing.
An advantage this affords me is that I don’t get stuck, or suffer from writer’s block. I know where I’m going with the story. I have a mile marker or point to write towards.
Another thing to remember with this process, is that the plan is not written in stone, just like a road trip vacation. If some point along the way is really interesting, there’s nothing wrong with staying there and exploring a little longer. If it’s not interesting, there’s nothing wrong with breezing through, or even bypassing the stop. Also, as with any vacation, opportunities to pull over, or go off the planned course to take a look at something interesting or special is always an option.
In the end, the planning enables me to push through a first draft, writing it such that there are very few plot holes or plot tangents going nowhere that need attention in subsequent drafts. There’s less revision, less rewriting. It saves me time.
As said, what works for me, may not work for you. But if you’re a writer struggling to get those novel ideas down and build a novel around them, give it a shot, remembering to modify the process to your individual tastes and needs.
Terry W. Ervin II is an English teacher who enjoys writing fantasy and science fiction. His First Civilization’s Legacy Series includes FLANK HAWK and BLOOD SWORD. He is focused on completing SOUL FORGE, the third novel in the fantasy series.
His newest release from Gryphonwood Press is RELIC TECH, a science fiction novel packed with action, adventure, aliens and even a bit of a mystery.
In addition to novels, Terry’s short stories have appeared in over a dozen anthologies, magazines and ezines. The genres range from science fiction and mystery to horror and inspirational. GENRE SHOTGUN is a collection containing all of his previously published short stories. To contact Terry or learn more about his writing endeavors, visit his website at http://www.ervin-author.com and his blog, Up Around the Corner, at HYPERLINK http://uparoundthecorner.blogspot.com