Conan, what is best in life?


The writing process…Never one drop of water on Arrakis.

A lot like being pecked to death by chickens?

I should avoid stream of consciousness I think.  Some guys give you Ulysses.  I give you a string of spam from the Upper hind cortex.

Today I am going to talk about my writing process and how I started building skills without knowing it.

I have wanted to write since college. When I was in college I compulsively started stories, but I never seemed  able to finish them. I would reach the dreaded mid story doldrums and I would become bored.  I would put them down with notes to myself to come back later.  Invariably I would just go on and start another story because the spark of an idea would hit me.  Those creative sparks were like the embers of a wild-fire, they would find tinder in my mind and send me off on a wild rush of writing.  That is until I got to the dread middle.

Can anyone guess why I was having this problem?  No plan, no outline, no goal or finish in mind.

This was all just purely writing from an emotional basis with much of it plotted out cinematically in my head as I went.  It carried me through a dozen, dozen attempts at submission for Writers of the future.  Eventually I burned out on the process because I knew the creative spark that got me going was not enough to carry me through completion.  At that point in my life it never occurred to me that I lacked the proper skills to create structure.  Writing was an alchemical act and good writers would never, ever divulge the process for transforming lead into gold.  Thus I essentially quit writing for pleasure from the time I was 20 until I was 24.

I was not idle during that time, I was running security for a very large Anime convention.  I was doing what all 24-year-old men (boys) do, which is seek the company of the finer half of our species.  I was also very focused on my career and trying to make money to support my growing list of hobbies.

What changed?  Well a little thing called gaming.  I have always been a role-playing gamer sporadically.  Consistency was hard with so many seasonal activities like hunting, but I have kept up relationships with friends who game constantly.  In fact most of my current circle of friends who are not writers are gamers or people I met through renaissance faires and the Society for Creative Anachronisms.  That is right, I got my NERD on in my 20s.

During this time I started running my own games.  To run a game you must learn how to build structure, plot and meta-story. I learned from other gamers whose games I played in and then in building out my own worlds.  I was very lucky because I came out of college with a twenty plus hard-core, world-class gaming friends. I learned to love world building, even to the point that I began to create my gaming environments.  Suddenly the 3 act Aristotelian play became a tool I was using to tell my stories in game form.  I did not even KNOW I was doing this, but it is the format almost all of us in the Western world use.  I was learning how to tell stories in ways that built tension, created a sense of pace, and learn that cadence we have all come to expect from stories.

A few years after moving to Dallas (where I moved after graduation) a good friend of mine started a small press gaming company.  I wanted to join, so I became a small equity stake holder. We purchased the rights to a well-known fantasy roleplaying setting, and we started rebooting the world.  Over the next ten years the group published a dozen gaming books.  Because this company was essentially a group of close friends, we all pitched in to do writing.  Suddenly I had projects and deadlines.  It became another learning experience.  10k words by the 19th or you’re dead meat!    Over the next few years I wrote on a handful of projects and learned a bit about what it takes to write to a deadline and how to motivate myself to write.  What did not happen however was the essential moment of giving myself permission to try to write again.  It was easy not to think about it and by the late 90s I had once again fallen back into the habit of leading a busy life where there was no time for writing.

Thus did most of another decade go by… but more on that in the next post.

– Seamus

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2 Responses to Conan, what is best in life?

  1. Michelle says:

    Hurray for SCA nerds. I’ve learned so much through those guys.

    I think it’s a turning point in every writers’ life when they discover the almighty outline. I know it dramatically changed things for me as well. Wait, I can actually FINISH this story if I know how it’s going to end right from the start? Amazing.

  2. seamusbayne says:

    Thanks Michelle, I adore the SCA for what it does, though I am no longer actively playing. Maybe when my kids are older?

    I agree with you that every writer goes through these massive turning points in learning to write, some sooner some later. One reason I am telling my own story is because I hope that my process might be educational for others. Rather than just some massive ego wank.

    Lest someone think I am somehow saying I am done, I am not, I am a work in progress, but I hope I do have some things to share which could help.


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