5 | writing the culled crown
For those of you who don't know, I was inspired to write The Culled Crown while attending the Miss North Carolina pageant. My cousin was a contestant and I just imagined the whole fanfare of it being a little different if it were an all out gladiator-style fight to the death. What if only one girl could survive and that one person got the crown? Interesting.
This is the note I wrote in my phone during the pageant:
When I first started writing The Culled Crown, I created a list of things I already knew about the story. While some of the things on this list changed, the meat of the idea stayed the same.
In the Wattpad draft, there are only ten girls, not twelve. Monroe's last name is Benson, not Yates. And the description of her mark changes a little, although the placement is the same. My basic idea remained pretty consistent and has throughout even the most recent unread drafts of this book.
After I established what knew about the story, I start figuring out what I didn't know. Since this is a fantasy novel, this meant mapping the general layout of the world and developing laws and rules for how things function. Usually, I will type that information up in a document on Evernote or in a regular Word document. Once I have my rules, I can begin working with the story.
For this novel, I did a lot of the basic planning on my iPad. Over the last few years I've been using an app called "Index Cards" which is exactly what it sounds like, a bunch of virtual index cards. The app is pretty straight forward and allows for grouping, color coding, and sorting.
I created a stack of virtual cards for each major character in the book (Monroe, Cohen, Uri, Dellacov, Viera...) and then a different set of cards for the plot beats. I like the flexibility of having the notecards on a device rather than physically, because I can take the iPad anywhere and access my plot. I'm also a little bit of a perfectionist and tend to get stuck on the shape of own handwriting which distracts from the flow of ideas.
Once I had decided on most of the world building information, I chose a writer's notebook from my stash and began filling it with my ideas. Usually, by the time I've started using a notebook, I have already started writing the novel. In the case of Monroe's story, I ended up using a "short" to start my novel. I have an entire blog post discussing what shorts are and how I use them, but to summarize--
A short is a quick, unplanned writing session. A short can be anything between one paragraph and twenty pages. I just sit and write. For me, this usually starts with a string of dialogue or a description and I just keep writing until a general plot or tension appears. I find this style of brain storming really easy, because it removes pressure. I'm just writing for fun, not for an exact purpose. I can go back and look at my file of shorts and, sometimes, find the beginning of my next novel, or even just a section of dialogue that I can repurpose somewhere else. Some of my best ideas have come from previously written shorts.
I have lots of pre-written story parts and shorts, but I don't flesh all of them out and write them right away. Sometimes, I like to sit on an idea for a little while, rather than work on it before I feel ready. So, the use of a notebook is typically the green light for my writing process. You can look at my instagram and tell where I am in a project. If I have the iPad and the laptop out, then I am either at the very beginning of a draft or at the very end. I rarely need the plot cards in the middle of a draft. If you see a notebook in a picture, I'm actively drafting a novel.
Once I pulled a notebook and started really taking notes on my plot, it was "go time" for The Culled Crown. The process of getting an idea, starting the virtual notecards, starting the world building within a notebook, and then actually sit down to write can take anywhere from three days to three months. Sometimes the momentum is there and a story comes quickly. Other times, a story stalls within the first or second step and I let it rest for a while and move on. It just depends.
When writing The Culled Crown, I was teaching middle school. This meant that I didn't have large sections of free time to devote to writing. I was working on the book in short bursts, usually very early in the morning or very late at night. It probably took me longer to get started on the book than it usually would have.
After I have started to write, I continue to keep a writer's notebook. The notebook houses everything from character ages to critical plot developments and world building information. For instance, in my writer's notebook for The Culled Crown, I wrote out the entire creation mythology surrounding the Culling and Eirden Dow. While I wasn't sure that any of it would end up in the novel it felt important to know the information myself.
The middle of a book is almost always the easiest for me to write. This is usually the sections of the book that I can easily visualize. Often these are the scenes I can visualize first.
By the time I got the middle of The Culled Crown, I felt like Monroe was in charge of the story. It was easier to present her with choices and let the story move where it needed to go.
The timeline varies. I write very quickly. On average, I can write a full novel in a month in a half. The fastest I've ever done it was fifteen days. Of the books I've written, The Culled Crown took the longest to write. I started it in March of 2018 and didn't finish it until October 2018. Granted, I went a few months without touching it and I was a middle school teacher at the time.
I will also say that my writing pace has slowed since I graduated from college and started working full-time jobs. I used to have more energy to give to writing, but now I work at my own pace, which means taking time to decompress and relax. It means writing during fifteen minutes breaks or typing scenes into my phone.
Writing The Culled Crown was a challenge because it was the first book I wrote after leaving school. I was also pulling myself out of a depression when I started it. while I had moments when I almost gave up on it, I'm glad that I didn't. I'm happy that I stuck with it and was able to push past my own doubts and fears. Monroe's story has been read so many times and I am just in awe of it. If you had told me this time last year that I would have a book with over 500K reads on it, I would have laughed at you.
Still, I am so thankful for the opportunity to share that book with all of you.
If you want to read The Culled Crown or take a look at any of the other books I have posted, you can check out my Wattpad profile linked here.