Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thoughts on The Process -- Michael Martin

Welcome to the Guest Post Segment: Thoughts on the Process, where authors share some insight on their writing. Our guest post this week is by Michael Martin Author of: Burning in The Heat, which was reviewed by The Podpeople in August 2008. Please welcome Michael Martin.

MM: Perhaps, the most important thing about the writing process, and I'm only talking about fiction here, is that the story is believable and real. At least that's how it is for me, both as a writer and a reader. Even if you're writing about alien life on another planet, I have to be convinced that this really happened, otherwise I lose interest. In my opinion, you can only achieve believability and realism through in-depth characterization, and by conveying intense emotions and sentiments that are universal to humankind.

Whether it is a story or a novel, I try to start off with an ordinary situation that has the potential to become extraordinary, a point in a life located somewhere just before that fork in the road. I like it when my characters are troubled individuals, people who have limited options, people who are crushed by the combined weight of minor circumstances, things that when taken individually are never quite as overwhelming as they are in total. For example, when that guy on the subway, who looks normal in every respect, suddenly goes ballistic because someone bumped into him on the way out, everyone on the train usually stares at him, backs off a bit, and thinks, "Hey, this dude is crazy!" But when I see something like this I think, "Hey, this dude has a story to tell!" And right away, I want to get into his head. I need to see the rage on his face and find out why it's there. I want to know what it's like to be that guy at that particular moment and understand his motivation for behaving this way. Everyday, someone bumps into this man on the train and he never says anything, but today it's different. Today, he just couldn't control the urge to lash out. He's got self-esteem problems. His wife takes advantage of him, and his kids are a disappointment, as well. Maybe his boss is one of those mean bastards who finds new ways to humiliate him on a regular basis. People are always pushing him around because he's soft spoken and polite and they think they can do and say anything to him and he's just supposed to sit there and suffer in silence, and...well, not today!

And, for me, that's usually how the story starts. Something is going to happen, and you're going to take your readers there and make it as vivid and visual and sensory as possible, and when they put your book down, even if that man ends up choking some innocent old lady on that train, or perhaps quits his job without warning, or decides to cheat on his wife, or simply makes a stand and demands that the people around him finally give him some respect, your readers will identify with him because most of us want to be respected, and we all know what it feels like when we are not.

Generally, it takes several rewrites before I get everything in place to my satisfaction, usually five or more, sometimes ten, however long it takes. I am terrible when it comes to proofreading myself for typos. I write directly from my head onto the computer. I type about 80 wpm, but I'm probably thinking at around 500 wpm. In the process, I lose words like "an" "the" "a" "as" etc., and no matter how many times I read it through, I never catch these kinds of errors. Ironically, it's always the kind of thing that the spell checker will miss too! This is why it’s a good idea to include a trusted friend in the writing process. A friend whose opinion you regard well enough so that you will not dismiss their criticism out of hand, someone who has no obligation tip-toe around your emotions, but at the same time will not destroy you over a few minor errors and inconsistencies. I like structure, and I like to know where I'm going, but I find most plots contrived, probably because, in my opinion, the amount of coincidence and suspension of disbelief in order to make a plot work reduces the overall level of realism. For me, 80% or more of the writing process is rewriting, rewriting, rewriting, and more rewriting. Until you get it right. And I don't think the finished work ever looks exactly the way that you envisioned it at the beginning of the journey.

Michael Martin is a New York City based amateur photographer and fiction writer. His photography tends to focus on parades, protests, rallies, and other public events. He likes photojournalism, documentary photography, street photography, candid portraits, and anything that conveys mood or emotion, pictures that tell a story. He also enjoys shooting nature and urban landscapes. His books fall into the crime fiction private investigator genre, while his short stories tend to have a mainstream fiction focus with modern themes. Visit Mr. Martin at his website:
If any of our regular readers would like to share their process, we would love to hear from you. You can email it to: podpeep at gmail dot com with the subject line: Thoughts on The Process. I will give it a quick proofread and post it to the blog. Please include a short bio and a link to your website or blog if you have one. If you have already been reviewed by us, please include the title of your book, as well.


Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

I love the rewriting bit. I too think that the revision process is where the real writing happens.

Michael Martin said...

I agree. It's the part that can be the most frustrating and most satisfying. This was fun! Thank you for including me.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

You're welcome. I love when other authors want to participate. Blogging can seem so one sided and lonely sometimes.

MsKnowitAll said...

This is a great post & I am a fan of Mr. Martin's work.

Michael, you have enlightened me on your process. Very helpful