I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post by author Alexander Charalambides, who answers my question...
ELF: What is your writing process?
AC: Naturally, I get started with inspiration.
Usually inspiration strong enough to produce an actual novel comes from three different places: first, something so bad that I drive myself crazy trying to figure out how it could’ve been good, second, wanting to understand, emulate or adapt something I really like, or third, from the nugget of a good idea in a bad story.
Once I have this inspiration, things start to spiral out of control. There’s no real order to what comes first, it might be scenes, characters or a premise, it doesn’t really matter, because these things build off each other until I have enough to get started.
Once I have all the bits I ‘want’, which is to say, all the bits that were no effort to imagine, I have to start thinking things through. I fill in the holes by working out what the story needs, extra characters, added story elements or modifications, and once I have enough I start putting things on paper.
This is the part I think everyone finds the hardest; quantifying the actual shape and structure of the story. After laying out everything I need to make absolutely sure I don’t forget, like ways to consistently evoke themes or something specific about a character, I take the absolute biggest events in the story and write them down.
After checking for consistency I add more detail, more steps. I use a notebook for this so it can sit next to my computer and I can reference it while I work.
After I’ve worked through all the scenes in my notebook and created a first draft, I take two week’s break.
Once the break’s over, I read through my first draft with my notebook, making sure the first draft sticks to all the points I wanted to hit and communicates everything it needs to, and if it doesn’t, I try to make sure it does.
After this, basically, I repeat this step over and over again until I’m happy, and once that’s over I edit for brevity, and the boring stuff like grammar, spelling and format.
After that, the novel’s probably ready for test readers, although depending on how confident I am I might ask people to read it earlier, and I take into account what my test readers say when editing.
If I’m sure that the novel hits all the beats it needs to, my test readers like it and all the spelling, grammar and formatting are in order, it’s ready for release.
by Alexander Charalambides
Hildegard lives in a real-life dollhouse, surrounded by prop houses and actors who play friends, teachers and foster parents. Only one man ever seemed real, and after his disappearance, she’s had enough playing along. As Hildegard makes her final preparations to run away from home, a swarm of black clad soldiers appear, controlling the police and swarming across her home town. She can evade them for now, but after learning their mission, she decides to play along one last time, following them to Truman Academy, a lonely building on a freezing aleutian island. Hildegard knows it for what it is: just another prop, but not everyone feels the same way. Through the hell of endless drills and marching, Hildegard befriends the stealthy Grace and bloodthirsty David, and enlists them in an effort to unravel the plan of the man called G and his monstrous menagerie of inhuman soldiers.
“Doctor!” A student rushes in, holding a smoking walkie-talkie, and supporting a friend, limping on a bleeding leg. Islet jumps to his feet again, setting the injured student on the ground, elevating the leg, and shining a small flashlight across it.
“What happened?” I ask them.
“It’s G,” he says, never taking his eyes from Islet’s treatment. “We overheard the baggers, they formed up around him, somewhere near their comm room, and called in a chopper.” I scan the ground and snatch up a weapon.
“That’s where they had all the phones, right?” Grace says. “The one outgoing line.”
“Trashed.” The student groans. “By the time we got in it was just broken glass and charcoal.”
“If G escapes, we’re all as good as dead,” I tell the room. “And he has a lot to answer for.” They all look up. “So who’s coming with me to bring him in?” Some stand. Others raise their hands. “Grace.” I tap her on the shoulder. “Take two minutes to organize them, make sure they’re all healthy and armed.”
“Got it,” she nods. “He’s going to get what’s coming to him.”
“Islet.” I drag him aside. “We need to talk.”
“Uh, okay,” he nods. “What is it?” I listen to the murmur of voices and the clatter of equipment.
“I saw the medical staff.” He nods, making a show of listening. “Radiation suits.” His eyes roll down to his feet.
“You saw the bomb?” he asks.
“I saw enough to guess,” I say. “We all did.”
“I didn’t want to,” he gasps. “We were forced, we installed it at gunpoint, I hate-”
“I don’t care how you feel about it,” I say and shove him against the wall, “I need to know how big it is, what kind of detonator it has, and if it can be disarmed.”
“Well,” he gulps, “it’s tactical grade, I remember they said that, just enough to-”
“Get rid of the evidence,” I say.
“That was the idea.” He nods. “Even if we take the academy, they might-”
“They won’t,” I tell him. “G wouldn’t trust anyone else with the detonator, so we won’t give him the chance to get far enough away. Don’t get the wrong idea, Islet, I need to know if it can be moved.”
“Moved?” He flinches again. “You want to use it?”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Alexander Charalambides was born in London and grew up in Berkshire in the UK.
He studied Creative Writing, and graduated from the Open University.
As a freelance writer Alexander enjoys storytelling just as much as editing and analysis, but often takes time off to enjoy wind surfing, do the sickest of motorcycle flips, wrestle with deadly animals and lie about his hobbies.
In 2008 he moved to the USA and now lives in New Hampshire’s beautiful White Mountains with his family and two dogs, Gwynne and Gimli.
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