Everfound: My life as a Dictator

My process for writing EVERFOUND was a little different than usual. Because I had a very tight deadline, and because I didn’t want to compromise the quality of the work, I sped up the process by having my assistant, Wendy Doyle, transcribe material for me. I would write my first draft in a notebook—I always do it that way. Technology is great, but there’s something important to me about getting my ideas down on paper first. Then I would dictate what I wrote into my iPhone, digital recording app after I was done for the day. Usually I had lots of trouble reading my own handwriting, so I’d be revising the whole thing as I dictated. (See image of a handwritten page.  Can you read my handwriting? Didn’t think so.)

This page, by the way, includes “place holder spaces” for two characters which I offered to name after my facebook fans.  Hundreds of kids suggested their names, and I chose twelve to use — six first names, and six last names. I use multiple colors when I’m writing for four reasons 1) To mark where I stopped writing, and started dictating 2) to mark  chapter breaks;  3) To add variety so I’m not always looking at one dull color;  4) because I can’t find the last pen I was using.

Wendy, my "ethereal" assistant

Once I’m done dictating the segment I’d just written,  I would e-mail the file to Wendy, and while I was working on the next section, she would transcribe it, send it back to me, and I would do a major revision of the transcription. (By the way, I’ve never actually met Wendy— we’ve been working for more than six months together but all by mail and internet!)

The stuff that Wendy gets is so random, so disjointed, it barely resembles a book. It’s really in the next revision that it comes together. That’s when I add the “connective tissue,” bridging the various sections, and making sure that the characters are behaving like real people. That’s crucial. I’ve learned that if the characters are real, you’ll take the wildest journeys with them — but it all rests on you believing those characters. So I built the book, handwritten, dictated, transcribed, rewritten, revised, then polished, and then did another revision of everything before writing the last fifty pages. Once I reworked it, and made sure the whole book was working, I dove into the last fifty pages…. Which turned out to be 100 pages instead of 50! More next week – some teasers about what to expect in EVERFOUND!

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6 Responses to “Everfound: My life as a Dictator”

  1. Bethany Says:

    This is fascinating. Thank you for sharing. I think it would be interesting (although impractical, I guess) to see the finished book in the changing colors of ink…

  2. Eugene Says:

    Wow, that’s a really fascinating process. I’ve never heard of anything like it, but it does seem very organized, and you can’t argue with results. The question is, would you write this way again if you didn’t have the same time constraints?

    I’m looking forward to reading the final product!

  3. Michael Says:

    Thanks for some of the tips(?) on writing, I especially appreciate hearing about the colors because I have often ran into problem number four, however it seems quite flat to never have thought of using more than one color. I guess that is why you are published and I’m not! Heh.

    The best I’ve got are my own little fanfictions.

    I recently though have adopted the yWriter software and quite like it.

  4. Patty Says:

    Wow, if Wendy ever needs a vacation, I’m available!!!

  5. simran Says:

    dude, are u sure the book cant come out any sooner??

  6. #1Fan Says:

    I already have it! And I’m about to finish! Neal please my reply in the Everfound Teasers page. I am #1Fan.

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